In a post titled "A Bad Sign for Bobby Jindal", Ta-Nehisi writes:
Or maybe just political journalists:Last weekend, 18 days after Barack Obama decisively defeated their candidate for president, a mostly Republican crowd of self-described conservatives received their first introduction to someone many prominent members of the GOP think could be the party's own version of Obama.You don't say. Obama was the next Kennedy. Then he became the next McGovern. Or was that the next Stevenson? Now he's the next FDR. And Jindal is the next him--because he's, you know, swarthy. The thing about Obama that people, apparently, still don't get is that thus far he has proved himself a damn good politician. He is not simply the eloquent black dude who won--although he's that too. He's the dude who reinvented campaign fundraising, who pioneered the use of social networking, who won Virginia and North Carolina, who ended 50 plus 1.
Obama's also the dude who's turned universal healthcare, massive public works projects, and an office of urban policy into the machinations of a centrist or a center-right Democrat. But most importantly Obama opposes dogma. He is a progressive pragmatist trying to tackle issues by creating the broadest coalition possible. Jindal meanwhile.....social conservatives like what they have heard about the public and private Jindal: his steadfast opposition to abortion without exceptions; his disapproval of embryonic stem cell research; his and his wife Supriya's decision in 1997 to enter into a Louisiana covenant marriage that prohibits no-fault divorce in the state; and his decision in June to sign into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, a bill heartily supported by creationists that permits public school teachers to educate students about both the theory of "scientific design" and criticisms of Darwinian evolutionary concepts.So let's see we have, covenant marriages, outlawing abortions--no exceptions--creationism, and banning stem-cell research from the public sector. Sounds pragmatic to me and exactly the sort of issues to build a broad coalition around. Why not resurrect Terri Schiavo while we're at it. This dude isn't Barack Obama. He's George W. Bush--he's a more competent George Bush.
I think that oversells Obama's centrism. Just to take an example that Ta-Nehisi uses, did Obama make some compromise on the Democratic Party's no-restrictions-on-abortion-at-any-time-no-shut-up-I-CAN'T-HEAR-YOU-LALALALALA platform? Because as far as I know, he's still toeing the party line there. And that's just about as extreme, as far from the average American's opinion on abortion, as Bobby Jindal's.
On the other side, I don't see anything wrong, or "EXTREMIST", about Bobby Jindal being a devout Catholic who wants to enter into a covenant marriage. He hasn't indicated any plans to stop Ta-Nehisi and I from living with our partners without benefit of the marital sacrament, or from getting married, should we choose, the good old-fashioned way, with its 50% divorce rate. I think the option for covenant marriage is a good thing for the government to provide, but then I'm a libertarian. I like people to have as many choices as possible, as long as those choices don't hurt others.
Besides that, I'm willing to bet that Ta-Nehisi has never seen Jindal in person. I have. And while "swarthy" may play a small role in the Obama comparisons, it's mostly along the lines of thinking that the Republican Party's first non-white candidate would help heal the party's image a bit. The reason that they're comparing Jindal to Obama is that, in person, he comes off a lot like Obama. He's extremely positive, he's personally charming, and he's kind of skinny and his ears stick out. Like Obama, Jindal is something of an odd duck; he looks like the president of the Paramus, New Jersey High School Chess Club, and talks like a good old boy with a plantation somewhere back in the Bayou. The combination is disconcerting for northern journalists, and a little bewitching.
But once you're past that, well, the guy just has skills. His message, like Obama's, is one of hope and actual change; he tends to emphasize the work he's done reforming Louisiana's notoriously corrupt political culture. And like Obama, he has the charisma to put it over. Nearly all prominent politicians are extremely charismatic. Being in a room with them is like being in a room with the sun; you can't really look anywhere else. But some have it more than others, and Jindal has a lot of it.
He's also a really good political organizer, which is how a Republican carries Louisiana (to be sure, the Democratic governor's monstrously incompetent performance during Hurricane Katrina helped quite a bit.) And on the other metrics by which Obama stands out--his academic chops, his meteoric rise--Jindal actually betters Obama. The guy was accepted to both Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School, but decided to go for a political career, and accepted his Rhodes Scholarship instead. At 25 he was appointed Lousiana's Secretary of Health and Hospitals; at 28, he became the youngest-ever president of the University of Louisiana system.
You can say many things about him--he's written some nutty things about Protestants, and participated in an exorcism, which means he's gonna have some 'splaining to do if he runs for President. But he is not George W. Bush, or John Kerry, or Al Gore, or any of the other range of uninspired sons of the gentry who have graced our political landscape recently. He is phenomenally smart, and phenomenally talented, and phenomenally likeable. And I'm sure that complacent Democrats dismissing him as a goober with a God complex suits his current plans just fine.