Jindal Agonistes

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, whom everyone assumes will be running for president in 2016, has had a lot of ups and downs in his relatively short career. Hailed as a wunderkind, he was given a series of influential positions in Republican administrations both state and federal while still in his 20s, eventually winning a seat in the House and then the governorship. Then he had that disastrous State of the Union response in 2009, where he looked almost hilariously awkward and uncomfortable. He recovered from that, though, and things seemed to be going very well when he gave a speech telling Republicans they couldn't be the "stupid party." His bold truth-telling made reporters swoon.

But alas, things have turned. Jindal recently proposed a tax plan that would cut taxes on the wealthy and increase them on the poor and middle class, and was shocked to find that people in his state found it less than appealing. He withdrew the plan, but not before his approval rating plunged into the 30s, making him one of the least popular governors in the country, at least for the moment (Benjy Sarlin explains what happened). And liberals, quite naturally, are enjoying a little schadenfreude at his expense. As Ed Kilgore explains, "the problem with Jindal is that he seems constantly to be telegraphing his superiority via cynical, dumbed-down political games that you know he knows are a giant shuck." I guess that's the thing about being a genuinely smart guy in a party where your fellow bigshots are people like Rick Perry and Sarah Palin who have to take off a shoe to count to 11. You have to work extra hard to cater to your party's base, but you risk looking cynical when you do it.

And it's one thing to do that pandering just with some rhetoric, like most members of Congress can, or even with a plan that people can read, like Paul Ryan did. But once you try to implement the current Republican economic vision—one in which the wealthy are granted relief at last from the burden of taxation, corporations are freed to do pretty much whatever they want, and the moocher class receives both the contempt they deserve and the character-building deprivation that will one day save them from themselves—you run into two problems: It doesn't work very well, and people don't like it.

So something tells me Bobby Jindal is going to be quite a bit more cautious between now around two years from now, when he starts showing up at county fairs in Iowa.

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