Bobby Jindal’s Ideological Freight

I noted briefly in the Day’s End post yesterday that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approval ratings seem to be sinking like a stone. I’d like to wallow in that topic for a moment, not just for purposes of schadenfreude (though there is that), but because Jindal is so often touted as an example of the new wave of smart, pragmatic Republican governors who are the future of their party and perhaps our country.

The two big nationally significant “ideas” Jindal has made his signature are private-school “backpack” vouchers (i.e., kids and parents call all the shots on where the kid takes his taxpayer subsidy; taxpayers themselves or their representatives have no say, and schools are not accountable for any particular results) and the abolition of the state income tax in favor of higher sales taxes. Neither of these are particularly new ideas–particularly the craven “idea” of bribing the wealthy into bringing their capital into your state by assuring them the poor and middle-class will pay most of the public bills–but the chattering classes have poor memories, and even old chestnuts falling from Bobby’s mouth are often treated like jewels.

The latest poll from Louisiana, by the local firm Southern Media and Opinion Research, showed Jindal’s once-sterling job approval ratio dropping to 38/60 (by comparison, Sen. Mary Landriuex, often described by chortling conservatives as sure to lose in 2014, comes it at 55/41; and even President Obama, who’s lost the state twice by nearly 20 points, looks better at 43-56).

But how’s about Bobby shiny “new ideas”? The same poll asked about them, and the results aren’t that pretty. The approval/disapproval rating for Jindal’s voucher system is 42/53. For his “tax switch” plan to abolish income taxes, it’s 27/63. And on a proposal that’s not so much an “idea” as a blatant ideological move, Jindal’s efforts to privatize state public hospitals registers at 32/60.

As the Times-Picayune‘s Lauren McGaughey noted in reporting on the poll, Jindal’s poor public standing is a matter of intense antipathy, not just lukewarm indifference:

When asked what letter grade they would give Jindal, nearly half gave the governor a D or F, with 29 percent giving him an A or B.

Right now, Jindal’s looking about as politically robust as Missouri’s Todd Akin, the guy Bobby recently mocked in saying the GOP had to stop being the “stupid party.” So the Boy Wonder better get his thinking cap on before he becomes that most pathetic of phenomena: the forgotten flamed-out phenom. But if he does continue to self-eclipse, let’s not forget to reassess the ideological freight he carried as well.

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.