Jindal’s record is his record regardless of who you are, and all concerned are familiar with it over the past year:
Certainly Jindal has not been a perfect conservative on every issue. For some things he could cite extenuating circumstances, such as his hesitancy over the individual income tax cut was due to a realization that the false economic boom of the state for a couple of years after the 2005 hurricane disasters came from a massive unloading of federal money into the state and a cut would take a couple of years before the higher revenues from increased economic activity would offset the temporary decrease in revenues from the cut. Sometimes he had to cut deals with the Legislature such as preventing use of surplus monies to full fund the Budget Stabilization Fund which would have eased the state’s budgetary problems this year that Jindal then knew were on the way. In other ways he has some blind spots, such as inflating an economic development fund to attract employers that has had no successes to date and only masks the state’s economic development ills rather than cures them. And in some ways Jindal also has been underappreciated by conservatives; no governor has done more to enact school choice, for example, than Jindal.
But simultaneously it’s obvious that Jindal’s record on the whole is conservative and that he got things done which had not been. Not even his staunchest conservative critics can credibly argue that any previous governor would have embraced and done most of the things Jindal has done. Even if it fell short of an ideal, no governor had made ethics reform a priority. Except in recessionary times, past governors seldom presented budgets to reduce government FTE positions paid by non-federal dollars. It had been almost two decades since priority was placed on matching recurring expenditures to recurring revenues. It’s unbelievable that the likes of Blanco and her predecessors would not have shot down the individual income tax cut the minute it hit committee, but Jindal was so torn between tax-cutting instincts and fiscal imperatives that he eventually went for the former that would create a bigger short-term headache for him with the latter.
These are the actions of a conservative and represent the first real break from the populist strain that ran through the fiber of even past Republican governors, all of whom argued at least at one point for tax increases which Jindal repeatedly has rejected as a fiscal tool. If Jindal does not maximize in all areas conservative, it also is worth remembering that the most significant conservative (as well as one of the most important and outstanding historically) president of our time, Ronald Reagan, pursued some policies that were not conservative, such as hiking payroll taxes and disaplying insufficient will in cutting government domestic spending; by these metrics, Jindal would be considered the more conservative of the two.
So why have some conservatives become such harsh critics of Jindal? It’s probably no accident that national conservatives tend to see the sum of Jindal as a whole because they are more distant from the immediacy of the political conflicts within the state. Those more on the scene are more tempted to infuse larger importance to each and every issue and make them more personal. Thus, all victories and disappointments become huge, but the latter loom larger because they fail to match an ideal that is unlikely to exist anywhere in politics in a pure form. (Jindal perhaps bears some of the blame for arousing passionate disappointments when they come because his rhetoric tends to the grandiose in describing principle when articulating policy.)
Perhaps the major reason why conservatism presents a much more valid understanding of human beings than liberalism is it is based upon fact and logic uncluttered by emotion. When conservatives, out of passion whenever a conservative politician fails to reach their ideal, begin to lose perspective on the bigger picture encompassing the ideological credentials of such an official, while their criticisms remain valuable the quality of their judgment of that politician’s policy contributions declines.
Maybe a good way to view this is to ask both conservative supporters and detractors of Republican Jindal whether they would trade him for Democrat Obama, or Republican California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Democrat Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, or even to bring back Blanco to run Louisiana. Surely it’s certain none would want that. They may not even want to swap him with the likes of Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour or Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Jindal is not the Messiah (Obama seems to have taken that job in the minds of many, anyway). But neither is he unworthy of conservatives’ support, given a clear-headed analysis of his record.