Sunday, December 28, 2008

Barack Jindal

I voted for Obama and would be delighted to see him fulfill his apparent promise. After the sheer boneheadedness of the officers of government my fellow Republicans had been content to elect, it was time for a change. I heartily agreed with Christopher Buckley's explanation for his defection:

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of "conservative" government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven't left the Republican Party. It left me.

Exactly. Still, don't throw out your Republican campaign literature yet, Christopher; like 10-year-old Cameron Bright reappearing as Nicole Kidman's deceased husband in Birth comes the Gipper reborn—or so many are beginning to hope—as a 36-year-old up-and-comer restoring competence and honesty to a state nearly as corrupt as Rod Blagojevich's Illinois. The comparisons are a bit of a stretch; Reagan never pretended to a résumé that included graduating from Brown at 21 and completing a Rhodes Scholarship at 23, but this most quintessentially American of 20th-century Presidents would certainly warm to a small boy, a son of Indian immigrants, who suddenly announced at age 5 that he would answer to no name but Bobby because that was his favorite character on The Brady Bunch. Republicans today, as described in Andrew Romano's piece in a recent issue of Newsweek, are flocking to the young Governor of Louisiana for a combination of style and substance, as Grover Norquist describes it:

First of all, he's brilliant....Two, he's from an immigrant community, so that speaks to immigrant experience, period. Three, he's a Catholic who lives his values instead of shouting at you about them. Four, he's a principled Reagan Republican. Five, he's from the South but doesn't look like a Southern sheriff. And he's got more successes as a governor, already, one year in, than George W. Bush or Obama had when they ran for president. He's exactly what we need.

I don't want Jindal to run as a sort of rebuke or comeuppance to Barack Obama; if the President-elect is as principled as he is intelligent, if he governs wisely and well, if he can truly effect needed changes in energy, the economy, and healthcare without incurring a ruinous debt, if he can restore our damaged credibility among nations, more power to him. No, I want Jindal to enter the arena because more nearly-matched competition puts each contestant on his mettle and forces voters to be very sure of why they are choosing one over the other; I want him to run also so as to put to rest for good the idea that the incoherent, swaggering, shoot-a-moose-from-a-helicopter style of another governor is seen once and for all as the tasteless national joke that it is.

Jindal claims he has no intention of running in 2012, and if he really means that, he needs to be reminded that Iowa is not in his jurisdiction, but whenever he chooses to run, can he win? There are at least two points of vulnerability: his uncompromising opposition to abortion under any circumstances whatsoever, and his self-attested participation in an amateur exorcism at Brown.

The majority of voters—even self-described pro-choice advocates, it seems—do not wish to see the wanton taking of unborn life for convenience but wish only to see abortion, as the phrase goes, become "safe, legal, and rare." It has to be a comfort even to those who are strongly pro-life, as I am, that the incidence of abortion has actually declined since the early 1990s. I hope for a cultural change of the type that caused the rate of smoking to drop by half over the past 40 years: the emergence of a culture that regards unborn life with such care and reverence as to see abortion as a regrettable choice and avoid it if possible; a blanket refusal to so much as consider it even for medical necessity is not likely to win votes for a candidate for national office. As to the rest of his religious views, I can only trust that someone with a biology degree from Brown will exercise his apparently considerable intelligence and not resort, for political or any other reasons, to the asinine prescription to "teach the controversy" to public school students, a controversy that would never have existed but for the perverse refusal of the scientifically ignorant to assent to what they don't want to understand.

© Michael Huggins, 2008. All rights reserved.

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