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Syndrome reaction to Jindal challenge of culture

With the departure of Gov. Bobby Jindal from Louisiana’s political scene, at least for the immediate future, more enlightened observers will miss perhaps the most humorous aspect surrounding his electoral career – behavior stemming from the affliction that some catch called Jindal Derangement Syndrome, the pathology of which merits scrutiny.

This syndrome manifests as a hyper-emotive, sociopathic reaction to all things Jindal. Typical behavior includes screeds devoid of reason that ramble enough to connect Jindal somehow to the imagined perfidy. So consumed by hatred of Jindal, these victims abandon any attempt to use fact and logic to evaluate policy preferences pursued by the outgoing governor.

For example, as incoming Gov. John Bel Edwards agitates for resumption of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits to the able-bodied without spouses and/or dependents between ages 18-49 who do not work, attend training programs, or volunteer to charitable organizations at least 20 hours a week in the past three months, invective flies against how Jindal wisely decided to join 20 other states in returning to following the law of the land since the late 20th century by terminating benefits for these recipients. Or, more generally, how a few of the chattering classes define Jindal’s optimal decisions to right-size government that help people keep more of what they earn while those policy same choices make others being subsidized and/or who desired subsidies force others to do their fair share to accrue these privileges as some kind of crimes against humanity.

Why do people who appear on the outside as normal, ordinary, even sometimes productive, citizens suddenly start foaming at the mouth whenever something involves Jindal? In a nutshell, this is explained by too much captivity to ideology, too little imagination, and too thorough of immersion in the state’s populist political culture.

It starts with the political culture. Not accidentally, Jindal enjoyed high popularity throughout his first term. Although partly as consequence of the state’s inefficient fiscal structure being buffered from the destructive economic policies of the Pres. Barack Obama Administration by hurricane disaster recovery dollars until they wound down, reasonably good economic times only explain partially his high rating and easy reelection. He also pursued cautiously publicly-desired reform policies. In retrospect, this set him up for reelection, where in the first half of his second term he advanced much bolder measures that made the first real progress in history in moving the state away from its redistributive, personalistic politics.

That challenged directly the culture, which forms a bubble in which many have lived for so long that they cannot imagine another. Yet while this may explain the tendency to narrow-mindedness that nourishes Jindal Derangement Syndrome, many intricately part of the political environment never develop it. As important, the relative isolation of individuals plays a role in acquiring the syndrome; that is, they live in another bubble regarding their social connections and chosen information channels.

Those few that do catch it often have little idea of how the typical Louisianan lives. These patients typically live privileged lives and have next to no interaction on any familiar level with people much less privileged than they. Further, they pay little heed to arguments that challenge their ideological prejudices, taking a reflexive approach to discredit these immediately through various defense mechanisms.

As a result, they may bloviate about how Medicaid needs expanding, but they don’t know anybody on it, if they even are aware that anybody they know is on it, except perhaps people that perform menial tasks for them. They may pontificate about the necessity of increased taxes to support the state’s higher spending levels, but are affluent enough (and likely from families with no recent history of poverty) to have no clue about how the job losses and higher costs that result from higher taxation hits those less well-off than they so disproportionately. And they resist exposing themselves to serious consideration of alternatives to their understandings of the world that threatens these and other existing issue preferences.

So bereft are they in broad experiential background and comprehensive policy knowledge, they settle in their little cocoons and when challenged by a worldview such as Jindal’s so alien to the way the business of politics has been conducted historically in Louisiana, they can’t help but condemn him for it. Especially since he has initiated the inevitable process of dismantling that milieu around which they have built their political worlds.

Haters will hate. Joining them in expressing unpopularity with Jindal now are others much more open-minded but dissatisfied with him precisely because his policy challenge to the political culture they value has started its dissolution in a process that may take decades to complete. His relatively unpopularity now does not derive solely from his Baptist-like role in starting the process, but it is an integral if not primary cause of it.

Unless a failure of will occurs among those more enlightened folks trying to wash the liberal populist stain out of Louisiana’s political culture, societal evolution pressures the transformation that will produce other political figures who will complete the process. Jindal only started the fire, and for that some will vilify him as long as they can take a breath.

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