Gov. Jindal likes Jesus. So what?

Reason – which I usually like – is upset with 2016 GOP hopeful Bobby Jindal for urging people “to turn back to God.” Jindal is quoted saying, “America’s in desperate need of a spiritual revival… We have tried everything and now it is time to turn back to God.”

As a libertarian, Reason’s Nick Gillespie reasons that Jindal’s perceived preaching is distracting from the real demons which vex our lovely nation:

No, it’s not time to “turn back to God,” especially when it comes to politics and public policy. What ails the government is not a surplus of religiosity but a nearly complete failure to deal with practical issues of spending versus revenue, creating a simple and fair tax system, reforming entitlements, and getting real about the limits of America’s ability to control every corner of the globe. God has nothing to do with any of that.

First, that Jindal was speaking to a group of religious leaders makes the Governor’s comments slightly more relevant. Jindal was not making his case to a broad audience, but trying to incite action among people who care deeply about their faith and who lead others who care deeply about their faith. For an audience like this, Jindal has to make the discussion religious; why else should these people care about politics?

More importantly, it’s worth taking a look at what roles religious institutions can play in society. Congregations socialize people. They coordinate an economic and emotional safety net which society has deemed necessary. In the absence of religious participation, where have those duties rested? It’s been the government, which was enacted less effective social welfare programs – entitlements funded directly or indirectly by a combination of complex taxes and reckless deficits.

These are the exact problems which Gillespie puts front and center, minus foreign policy. Perhaps he is correct that “God has nothing to do with any of that,” but overlooking religious participation as a part of the solution misses the point. One of the really good things that came out of the more recent Bush administration was the concept of faith-based solutions to social problems. If you have a strong group of people who want to help cure social ills, and the government doesn’t have to spend tax dollars on it, why would you try to quench that desire?

Gillespie is correct that Jindal – or any Republican – does need to be mindful of the way they talk about such things. Political rallies cannot sound like a revival meeting, and the American people – religious or not – generally don’t like being preached at outside of church (and sometimes not even inside). Yet churchgoing voters are out there, their views are important and, ultimately, that their altruistic tendencies can create alternatives to lessen the strain on the social safety net.

Jin-ed up?

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.

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