Jindal Lonely Figure Defending God and God’s States

Unsuprisingly, one of the first shots fired this morning at the SCOTUS decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was from a certain presidential candidate from the Gret Stet of Loosiana:

Governor Jindal said, “The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.

This decision will pave the way for an all out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty.

The idea that various secular institutions were actually established by God Almighty, who inspired the Founders to protect them from avaricious looters and sodomites via safeguards like the Tenth Amendment, is Constitutional Conservatism 101. It’s also why I say that our Christian Right friends are the real secularists in American politics, because they are forever saddling God with responsibility for the prejudices they cherish as faithful members of the Church of the Day Before Yesterday, where protecting privileges is by definition divine.

But quibbling aside….Jindal’s statement gives me an opportunity to make something clear about my own attitude towards the latest announced GOP presidential candidate. I’ve been on the receiving end of multiple tweets this week accusing Bobby’s liberal critics of being racists or religious bigots. Seth Mandel of the New York Post elevated this agitprop to an op-ed yesterday, excoriating “liberal racists” who are mocking Jindal for being a self-loathing Indian-American or ex-Hindu or whatever.

Sorry, folks, I plead not guilty. I’ve examined my conscience, and the closest I’ve come to even alluding to Jindal’s ethnic background (other than acknowledging that he was indeed the victim of racist slurs during his first gubernatorial run in 2003) is to suggest that he doesn’t “look or sound the part” he’s trying to play as a propagator of “redneck demagoguery,” and I think that’s a simple empirical fact based more on his background than on his ethnicity and skin color, and a compliment to boot. I did also wonder aloud in the wake of Nikki Haley’s sudden national acclaim for doing the obvious (and decent) thing on the placement of the Confederate Flag if Bobby might be irked to find himself the second-best-known Indian-American Republican governor, but I can’t imagine anyone would find that remark “racist.”

As for Jindal’s religion, it shouldn’t be any of my business, and I certainly have no issues with him choosing to become a Christian like me. His participation in an exorcism at Oxford is at least marginally germane to his judgment, though it could certainly be explained as a “youthful indiscretion” if Jindal so described it himself. And then there’s his current self-description as an Evangelical Catholic, which strikes me (and I’m open to rebuttal on this) as more of a dual pandering gesture than a reference to any coherent theological position.

The more important point is that you sure don’t have to be a bigot to dislike Bobby Jindal’s record and agenda. I’ve been particularly harsh towards him precisely because I’m pretty sure he’s a lot smarter than he lets on, and because he’s wasted his talent on an indifferent and ideologically-driven tenure as governor of a state that really could use some hands-on, compassionate help.

The flip side of this perception is that in the unlikely event Jindal achieves his ambition and becomes President of the United States (not this cycle, but he is, after all, only 44), he could very well turn out to be the Anthony Kennedy of electoral politics, outraging conservatives with intelligent and measured decisions instead of aiming destructive salvos at the New Deal and Great Society programs or the imaginary threat of Sharia Law. But you know what? It’s not a good sign when the only way you can feel positive about politicians is by assuming they are cynical opportunists who are deliberately fooling their own supporters.

So we might as well take Bobby’s word for it that he actually believes the stuff he’s saying, like today’s statement positioning himself as a brave and lonely figure defending God and God’s chosen instrument, the Sovereign States, from elitists like him. If he can get the righteous conservative folk of Iowa to believe it one-on-one encounters, he deserves the chance to rave on for at least a few more months.

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.