Yeah sure, I’m a cynic, but I’m guessing I wasn’t the only American watching Bobby Jindal stride up to the camera last night to instantly assume that the equally cynical Republican leadership cast the first-term Louisiana governor in that role, primarily based on the color of his skin. Gives new meaning to the phrase the minority response.
The GOP is an overwhelmingly white party, and predominantly old, white male at that, and so their relentless efforts to present a diverse face by touting young governors like Jindal and Sarah Palin as party leaders just comes across as pathetic. No doubt Jindal and Palin bring more to the table than a little melanin or estrogen, but if the Republicans are really interested in rejuvenating and recasting themselves, instead of just putting their same-old, same-old rhetoric in the mouth of a younger, darker face, they’d do better for themselves and the nation by elevating the likes of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist… a silver-haired white man, sure, but at least one who appears willing and able to question party orthodoxy during these extraordinary times.
Republicans are understandably envious (and increasingly alarmed) at the Democrats’ growing success with minority voters, but it seems they have the cause-and-effect behind our nation’s political segregation exactly backwards. Minorities don’t vote for Democrats because we have more minority leaders; Democrats have more minority leaders because we are a fundamentally more inclusive party that supports and promotes policies that better serve the needs of minority communities. And Republicans just can’t slap a Jindal or a Michael Steele in front of a gaggle of rich, old, white men and magically bridge that gap.
Jindal may indeed be smart and wonky, and perhaps may yet earn his reputation as a rising star, but he is only 37-years-old, and his three years in Congress and one year as governor of one of the most endemically corrupt and mismanaged states in the union hardly recommends him as a national leader. And judging by the early reviews, last night’s performance didn’t do much to enhance his stature:
National Public Radio’s Juan Williams said that Jindal’s presentation was “sing-songy” and that Jindal looked “childish” compared to Obama. “I think he had a really poor performance tonight, I’m sorry to say,” Williams said on Fox News Channel.
MSNBC’s political site was critical as well: “The Louisiana governor, a Rhodes scholar, is a serious guy who’s known for sometimes being too wonky and even somewhat humorless. Well, he tried too hard NOT to look wonky and humorless. But it didn’t work … his speech seemed to be too much of a brochure about himself rather than about his party and its ideas.”
And then there’s conservative commentator David Brooks’ scathing instant assessment on PBS’s The News Hour:
Still, I guess that’s okay; Jindal wouldn’t be the first young governor to flop in that role, so it’s hardly a career killer. Indeed, if history is any guide, Jindal might someday have a promising career as Commerce Secretary.