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What the Choice of Bobby Jindal for the Republican Response Means
Posted by Andrew Tobolowsky on 02.25.2009

Bobby Jindal was chosen to deliver the Republican response to Obama's state of the union address, at this critical juncture in our nation's history. What does that mean?

Two Things:

1) The Republican party is not as dumb as recent events have tricked some of us into thinking.

That sounds condescending, I know, but let's not kid ourselves. The idea that Sarah Palin is qualified for anything over the depth of mayor of a medium sized town (which is basically what Alaska is, except with more anarchists), is a laughable one. Conservs, although I know many of you are ready to flame me already, remember what David Foster Wallace said—"That other people can see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid"—and take this advice. The worst thing that could happen to your party in these next four years, even more than the economy recovering completely, is John McCain dying. All across the country even many erstwhile conservative homes will be filled with the sound of people saying "Jesus Christ, thank God he didn't win that election" and "what were those guys THINKING putting us in danger of THAT. Those bastards!". Although my guess is she shot herself in the foot with that SarahPac thing, and refusing to speak at certain Republican benefits. It's unlikely that Republican higher-ups saw her as more than a tool, and now that she's really gone rogue I doubt they'll have much to do with her.

And the Michael Steele thing, mentioned in a recent column of mine is just weird. It's not my fault it's weird. It's weird.

But Bobby Jindal is an incredibly smart, talented individual. The exact right man to answer Obama. I don't agree with pretty much a single thing Jindal says, but it doesn't matter—I don't need opposition I agree with, I just want opposition I can respect. You have to respect Jindal's intelligence—and you have to respect his integrity. No Rick Perry "The bailout is awful, can we have more money" for him. Lousiana will suffer in the short term for it, but if Republicans are right, he's going to come up smelling like roses. One of the only ones who will. That's courage of your convictions.

2) It's laying down the plan for 2012.

Bobby Jindal is a family values republican. Unlike many of these, and no I am not mincing words, he comes off as smart. It sounds like I'm being a douche, and in a way, I am—but it's always been my opinion and I've always stated it that the Republican party would be much better off if the people championing their values weren't so awful. Is that so bad? Wishing my supposed enemies more competent representation? Jindal, as I say is that.

But the way I saw it, after the last election the Republican party had two options, expressed by the presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively. More centrist, more right. More enlightened or more "values". And clearly, they went values. It's an interesting choice, but it seems like they've made it.

Again, I really admire the way they went about it. A terrible idea would have been Palin, but just as bad would have been Huckabee. He's what they want—he believes what they believe, and he's intelligent, sincere, and articulate—but he is still old news. In politics, if you're touched by failure, the stink stays on you. See Edwards, John. IF that's the way the Republican party chooses to go, there couldn't have been a better choice. Smart, talented, principled—and fresh. And they're launching him at just the right time and on just the right issue.

Very, very well done.

Now as anyone who pays attention to what I write about knows, I don't exactly agree that the conservative party is making the right move by going more conservative. The idea, then, is that there is, SOMEWHERE a massive conservative voting bloc which for whatever reason was not accessed in the last election. Given that the "real" Conservative candidates couldn't even win the primaries last year—couldn't even come close—this seems, just logically, unlikely.

I mean, not only did the Liberals get the MOST votes in the election, the two leading conservative candidates, Romney and McCain, were the MOST liberal. Am I crazy or does this idea of this silent values majority, as terrifying as it is to most liberals, seem tenuously supported at best?

You'd have to suppose that they exist, but sat out the primaries. You'd have to suppose that they exist but weren't scared enough of Obama to come out for McCain even WITH Sarah Palin. You'd have to suppose a lot of things—it seems to me, anyway. But then the extent to which I am a political EXPERT is that I am an unpaid columnist for a political website. So I should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

The Republicans are apparently comfortable with supposing either that this values bloc does exist and can be reached, or that it is at least not repugnant ENOUGH to mainstream America that someone from that side of things could capitalize on public uncertainty regarding the bailout IN ADDITION to picking up the values votes, if they're talented enough—and in that they may well be right. And they certainly couldn't have made a better choice.

Frankly, I'm just happy. Two, smart, talented people battling it out for the nation's approval. That's how politics should BE lads! It could always be like this!

(Although I will say that when I heard Jindal speak I thought he might have been trying to sell me a used car. But we'll see how important that is...)


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