Conservative Republican and Louisiana native Rod Dreher takes apart the speech 2016 Presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal gave in Washington last week:
Jindal: We do not need to change what we believe as conservatives – our principles are timeless.
Dreher: No, of course not. Conservatism, which was received by Reagan on Sinai, cannot fail; it can only be failed. We weren’t wrong about anything. Don’t worry about that.
Jindal: If you take nothing else away from what I say today, please understand this – We must not become the party of austerity. We must become the party of growth. Of course we know that government is out of control. The public knows that too. And yet we just lost an election.
Dreher: How is it that the government is spending way too much money, but austerity is bad? I don’t get it. Does he want to cut government spending, or doesn’t he? And does the public really know that “government is out of control”? If that’s true, where in this speech is the part where Jindal confronts the public about Medicare and Social Security?
Jindal: We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. … We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters. We need to trust the smarts of the American people. We have to stop dumbing down our ideas and stop reducing everything to mindless slogans and tag lines for 30-second ads. We must be willing to provide details in describing our views.
Dreher: Mote, beam. Rhetorician, heal thyself.
Dreher knows Jindal, a little, and has followed his career closely. He insists that Jindal is a very smart man. So the explanation for this vapidity is not Jindal's own intellect.
The problem is with the contradictory goals of the Republican Party, which have been its goals since Reagan: to somehow shrink the government without cutting defense spending or damaging the entitlements on which its predominantly older voters depend or expect to depend. Or, to put it another way, to cut taxes and balance the budget without giving up a single aircraft carrier or angering a single retiree. Since these goals are absolutely impossible to carry out together, they have retreated behind a rhetorical smokescreen. This is why John Boehner, Paul Ryan and company keep demanding that Obama propose some cuts in entitlement spending so they can debate them. Their budgets demand big cuts in such spending, but they are terrified of proposing serious cuts and then having Democrats attack them for having granny thrown out of the hospital.
Really Republicanism is a series of attitudes or precepts, which I would express as:
Hardworking, churchgoing people are good, especially hardworking, churchgoing white people; lazy, drug-using, welfare-check-cashing people are bad, especially lazy, drug-using, welfare-check-cashing brown people. America is good; everywhere else is either silly or dangerous. Business is good, especially if it involves heavy machinery or expensive suits and very large sums of money. Taxes are bad. Toughness is good. Character is what counts, circumstances just an excuse. Conservatism is the natural expression of old-time American values; liberalism is the whine of losers and the pastime of over-paid, America-hating professors.
The challenge for conservative politicians is to turn this attitude into policy recommendations. Reagan managed this fairly well, as did Gingrich in 1994. At the moment, nobody knows how to do it, which is why Republican politics consists mainly of vapid rhetoric and hatred of Obama.