March 21, 2007

Jindal Bells - Blanco Fires a Blank

Hatched by Dafydd

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has just breathlessly announced that she won't run for re-election... which is about as surprising a piece of news as if George Bush announced that he wasn't going to run for re-election, either.

Fortunately for all concerned, she managed to get through the stunning revelation without crying.

This clears the path for no-holds-barred battle between Bobby Jindal and John Breaux. While it will be a much tougher contest than Jindal vs. Blanco (which would have been a landslide for the Republican), in a way, this is better: At least if Jindal wins, nobody can say he was a weak candidate who only limped in because he was up against the thoroughly detested Blanco; the win will actually mean something.

But a win is not a gimmie; Breaux is a tough candidate... and that is exactly why I'm happy that Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco has bowed out.

I know, I'm about to have my partisan credentials yanked. But I have said before that I'm a strong believer in the two-party system; and like Horton, I meant what I said and I said what I meant (an elephant's faithful -- 100%).

What's so good about the two-party system? At its best, we boil competing philosophies of governance down to the two most important coalitions, then batter them against each other until, after due consideration, one is chosen by the people in an election.

There are always many more than two sides to every controversial issue; but more than two major parties leads to electoral debacles, party sharing, coalition government, and all the woes that plague parliaments that have more than two main blocs (think of France and Italy). So we don't want three or four major parties. But on the other hand, one-party rule leads to a situation like Iraq and Syria (worst case) or Japan (best case), neither of which is an inspiring model.

But for the two-party system to work as advertised, we need several things:

  1. Two articulate defenders --
  2. Of two distinct philosophies --
  3. Each of whom is prima facie credible --
  4. To a voter pool willing to listen to both sides before deciding.

When any of those four is MIA, the two-party system skews wildly out of control. And Gov. Blanco's candidacy broke all four of those criteria, hence was a prescription for electoral catastrophe.

The voters had already tuned her out, as evidenced by the fact that, months before the election (this October and possibly November, not in 2008), Rep. Bobby Jindal (R, 92%) was stunningly ahead of the sitting governor:

The Democratic governor’s announcement ends months of speculation in Louisiana political circles, fueled by dismal poll ratings that showed her capturing barely a third of the vote against a Republican challenger, Bobby Jindal, a congressman from the New Orleans suburbs.

Her disastrous incompetence following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita meant she was no longer a credible candidate. What platform was she planning to run on -- that she promised not to be as dreadful as she was in her first term?

As the sitting governor, her primary campaign would have to be on her experience; but that was in fact a distinct negative... so she would have to fall back on some huge policy difference between her and Jindal. But the only real difference was that Jindal has a political philosophy, whereas Blanco is a political blank slate, concerned only with amasssing money for her cronies and campaign donors. She had no great initiatives, plans, or ideas; in fact, she barely even responded to the biggest one-two punch of natural disasters ever to hit Louisiana.

So no airing of two distinct political philosophies. And of course, the idea that Blubbering Blanco could be called "articulate" is not merely a joke, it's like laughing at a cripple. Next to Blanco, George W. Bush is Demosthenes.

But John Breaux is a different story. Here are a couple of contrasts to get us started:

Age vs. youth

Breaux is 27 years older than Bobby Jindal. In 1972, Breaux had his first congressional electoral victory... and Bobby Jindal had his first birthday.

On election day, Breaux will be 63, while Jindal will be 36. While Breaux has been around for decades, Jindal is something of a child prodigy: better educated than Breaux (including a Rhodes scholarship -- which, unlike the previous president, Jindal actually completed, obtaining an MA in politics from Oxford); a string of "youngest evers," culminating with a very credible and almost successful gubernatorial run in 2003 at the age of 32.

My guess is that the age difference is less important than the generational one: John Breaux was born during World War II, and he came of age during the "Camelot" era; his philosophy seems more than anything like that of John F. Kennedy.

Bobby Jindal was born in the throes of Vietnam, but he would have first become politically aware during Ronald Reagan's presidency, which lasted from when he was 10 until he was 18, his most formative years. I would be astonished if he were not deeply affected by the Gipper.

So it's Kennedy vs. Reagan in the mangroves... and I'd much rather see that than Reagan vs. Blank-out.

Philosophies of governance

John Breaux was always considered a "conservative Democrat;" that is, he supported tax increases, but nowhere near as large or as often as his Democratic colleagues. He was more or less pro-life and pro-gun, though he would nevertheless caucus with his party, even when it was run by wool-dyed liberals who were pro-choice on killing foetuses but anti-choice on killing rapists who attack you in your own home.

But I would expect Breaux, based upon history, to be more of a local-issues, retail-politics governor who probably would not intrude himself into national politics very often; think of a Democratic version of Haley Barbour, rather than a Bill Richardson, Janet Napolitano, or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bobby Jindal, by contrast, is much more of a committed conservative: a convert to Catholicism (from Hinduism; Jindal's parents were recent immigrants from India when he was born), Jindal is about as hard-core anti-abortion as one can be; the only exception being that he supports "emergency contraception," which many consider to be an abortificant. But his pro-life stance makes no allowances for the issue of rape, incest, or in cases where it's called a "medical necessity."

Jindal also has a 100% rating from the NRA. But the real difference, I believe, is that Jindal seems to have a larger goal than just being an effective governor; I suspect he intends to become president one day (he was born in Baton Rouge in 1971, so is legally qualified... unlike Schwarzenegger or Jennifer Granholm).

Jindal has mostly supported a pro-enforcement immigration policy; he has voted to withhold funds from the UN until they enact the Bolton reforms; voted to permanize the Bush tax cuts, the cap-gains tax cut, and the USA PATRIOT Act; and voted against setting an exit date from Iraq.

And most important to me, Jindal voted a resounding No on House Concurrent Resolution 63, the House Iraq Cut-and-Run Cri de Coeur. He was not one of the "Surrender-Seventeen."

(Neither Breaux nor Jindal has any military service, I believe.)

I believe the 2007 election will be won or lost on leadership and on ideas. I like both candidates (assuming Breaux runs; and why wouldn't he?) But of course, I'm rooting for Jindal.

So despite the fact that it will be much harder for the Republican to win with the Democratic candidate being John Breaux instead of Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, I still prefer us to win a tough race than essentially get a bye.

Contrary to popular opinion, a mandate does not come from a landslide victory; a mandate comes from an election between two good candidates, each of whom runs on a specific and well-articulated platform; the people speak, and that gives the winner the mandate to transform that platform to actual policy. With an election blowout due to competency issues, the only "mandate" the winner has is not to be as much of a cement-head as his predecessor was.

To quote a hero of mine, bring it on!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2007, at the time of 6:30 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

It DOES seem that the only time the majority of Americans actually think (THINK) about politics is during election season. Having two distinct governing philosophies debated openly, passionately and effectively will not only help Louisiana, but the Nation as a whole. I'm SURE Jindal is considering the White House, and executive experience as a Governor will help him learn how to not only win, but to govern.

It will also help Louisiana in that there will be no suprises when the winner actually starts to govern. If Jindal wins against a strong foe, his win will be attributed to his plans, not his looks.

Of course, if he was a cute Democrat, he wouldn't need a plan. But he'll be running against the Press as well as (assumedly) Breaux, so he's going to need good ideas, and a great staff.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 21, 2007 6:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: AMR

This election, if it goes as you have planned - -er, outlined will be interesting. Mr. Jindal lost the last time, so the reports go, because of the last minute rush of the Democrats to issue negative ads painting his election as threat against whites and his failure to address questions about his performance in a state position. Those pockets of voters not desiring to vote for someone different from themselves are easy to sway, unfortunately, especially if the candidate is a Republican in a predominately Democratic state.

From everything I have read/heard Mr. Jindal is and should be a rising star. He is now a regional conservative, first generation East Asian with the charisma of Mr. Obama. This man apparently is a competent executive already. He would have been considered a good manager in any state but in Louisiana, amazingly excellent. At the age of 24, he was appointed Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals the state’s largest department with 12,000 employees, a $4 billion budget and hundreds of facilities. All creditable reports say that he turned that agency around to serve the people instead of the power brokers in the generally accepted most corrupt state in the Union. He was also the youngest-ever President of the University of Louisiana System between 1999 and 2001. President George W. Bush appointed him Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation; he held that post from 2001 to 2003. And he is now a member of congress. He won reelection in 2006; a feat that many republicans failed to do in Republican districts. Such accomplishments for someone so young!

He needs more “seasoning” in the area of foreign affairs for your presumed run for the presidency, but in my opinion, he has already proven his executive skills. That is something during this election cycle that Mr. Obama and all first tier Democrats do not have. He will bear watching. This election will sort out those questions about his previous performance. We need some new blood in our political system that are willing to lead America unabashedly forward. His election as governmor will give him the platform to lauch his presidental bid, if he desires to go in that direction. Just in time for the 2016 campaign.

The above hissed in response by: AMR [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2007 4:47 AM

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