One of the rising stars in the Republican Party, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal was tipped as a possible running mate of John McCain and is now seen as one of the main players in the party’s bid to rebuild for a congressional comeback in the mid-terms and to mount a challenge to President Obama in 2012.
On the face of it he’s a good candidate: Jindal is an able politician with a good record, who as governor in 2008 oversaw, with Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, the huge evacuation and preparations that saved hundreds of lives during the landfall of Hurricane Gustav.
But underneath it all, Jindal is still in hock to the religious right. He has opposed embryonic stem cell research, abortion, gay marriage, refused federal aid in hate crimes investigations, and promoted the teaching of creationism. During his time as a student he attended an “exorcism”, a procedure in which a young woman was detained and assaulted by people professing religious motives. Such characteristics, as Sarah Palin found to her cost, are only attractive to the Republicans’ base of religious extremists. To everybody else, they raise serious questions about a politician’s fitness for office.
More recently, Jindal has made some more serious faux-pas, announcing that Louisiana would reject state unemployment relief provided by the federal stimulus package. Thus in a state already hit hard by natural disaster, the most vulnerable families are placed needlessly in hardship by the stupidity of their own governor. Governor Jindal was also chosen to make the official Republican response to Obama’s stimulus proposals. He was severely criticised for his poorly chosen words, particularly in a clumsy aside, so mind-bogglingly stupid that it might have come from Senator McCain, about volcano monitoring.
This week Obama’s poll ratings improved, largely as a result of a rally among Republican voters. The GOP needs to get its act together. Revisiting the follies of the old Republican party, in new clothing, will not work.