Genius At Work

Yesterday I mentioned the Great Big Speech Bobby Jindal was scheduled to do at a RNC meeting in Charlotte last night, and discussed the signals he was sending out that he would urge a combination of radical anti-Washingtonton rhetoric with less overt stupidity.

Well, based on the transcript of the speech, which the Washington Examiner called “dynamite,” Jindal offered a “plan” for the GOP that is “smart” only in terms of promoting Bobby Jindal. It declares anyone who is in Washington working on federal challenges–however destructively–an irrelevant time-waster and a presumptive traitor to the Cause, since DC is enemy territory and those serving there are playing a “rigged game.” So much for the leadership aspirations of Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan or Rand Paul.

Beyond that, even as he demands specificity from Republicans (and no “dumbing down” of its policy ideas), here’s the Boy Genius’ brilliant plan for domestic governance:

If it’s worth doing, block grant it to the states.

If it’s something you don’t trust the states to do, then maybe Washington shouldn’t do it at all.

This extraordinarily original insight comes right after Jindal mocks as obviously absurd the idea of having much of a federal government at all:

If we created American government today, we would not dream of taking money out of people’s pockets, sending it all the way to Washington, handing it over to politicians and bureaucrats to staple thousands of pages of artificial and political instructions to it, then wear that money out by grinding it through the engine of bureaucratic friction…and then sending what’s left of it back to the states, where it all started, in order to grow the American economy.

It’s as though the Boy Genius is unaware of most of American history, isn’t it? His “populist vision” of conservative politics is about as new and fresh as that of John C. Calhoun, and the rhetoric has been worked to death by “anti-Washington” politicians of both parties for decades on end.

But I’m sure listeners did indeed find the speech “dynamite” because it contained these words:

I am not one of those who believe we should moderate, equivocate, or otherwise abandon our principles.

This badly disappoints many of the liberals in the national media of course. For them, real change means

:

* Supporting abortion on demand without apology
* Abandoning traditional marriage between one man and one woman
* Embracing government growth as the key to American success
* Agreeing to higher taxes every year to pay for government expansion
* And endorsing the enlightened policies of European socialism

That is what real change looks like to the New York Times editorial board.

But that’s crazy talk. America already has one liberal party, she doesn’t need another one.

When tied to a world-view that rules out everything that happens in Washington as either irrelevant and evil, this you don’t have to change mantra creates an endless playground for right-wing irresponsibility in the name of “principle.”

But what’s most amazing about Jindal’s speech is that it is being and will continue to be greeted as some sort of breath of fresh air when it’s devoted to some of the oldest and most shop-worn memes in American politics, up to and including the “populist” idea that “big government” is the only reason you have “big business.”

We’ll see how Jindal’s putative 2016 rivals react to this opening gambit. But he’s pretty much staked out the ground of cynical pseudo-populism as his very own.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.