Without mentioning him once, Governor Bobby Jindal went a long way toward recapturing the formula for Republican success which Ronald Reagan first captured nearly three decades ago.
Despite widespread criticism – even among Republican voices – his response to the unofficial State of the Union address last night struck the right tone for the GOP moving forward.
Unlike the gaggle of 2008 GOP hopefuls who felt they could excite their base by bandying about buzzwords like “conservative” and limited government,” Jindal illustrated the conservative view of government with stories. He recounted his commiseration with a local (Democrat) sheriff when federal bureaucrats stood in the way of Katrina rescue efforts. He talked about stimulating Louisiana’s economy by cutting taxes and promoting business. He talked about reforming education to empower people.
(Incidentally, in one of the poignant lines of his speech, Jindal even took back Katrina – the issue that served as an illustration for Democrats’ accusations that George W. Bush had lost touch with America. Jindal turned it around: “Today in Washington, some of us are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms… those of us who lived through Katrina — we have our doubts.”)
Most importantly, Gov. Bobby Jindal talked more about what he was for than what he was against. The running theme of his speech was a line he got from his Dad: “Americans can do anything.”
And in that optimistic wisdom is the conservative message. We oppose bigger government not only because it doesn’t work, but because it imposes restrictions that take away the ability for Americans to use their own ingenuity and creativity to solve problems – a formula that has worked for 233 years and counting.
It isn’t enough to say it – voters need to see it. Which is why Governors like Bobby Jindal are still the best torch-bearers for a renewed GOP brand. And while the detractors on the right – who were likely looking for their own version of a “conservative Obama” pan his speech, they must remember that one person will not resurrect the party.
Bobby Jindal is a piece of a much bigger puzzle. For the Republican party to establish consistent electoral victories, they need to paint a picture of a positive party with answers – and like a puzzle, creating that picture requires multiple parts.