Government & Politics

Jindal, Palin show some spine (on the bookstore shelves)

Again and again, Gov. Bobby Jindal solves problems. For instance, when his cuts to the state library budget led to the cancellation of this fall’s Louisiana Bookfest, Jindal personally stepped in to fill the void by writing and promoting his own book, “Leadership and Crisis.”

Classified as non-fiction, Jindal’s work provides conservative solutions for national crises, and is the perfect escapist narrative for Louisianans worried about piddly local crises like job loss, school dysfunction and lack of hospitals.

Not to be outdone, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin visited the Pelican State this week to meet her fans and market her latest book, “America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag.”  What an unexpected embarrassment of riches for Louisiana’s readers! They might’ve lost a fall book festival, but they gained access to Jindal’s and Palin’s most profound conservative insights.

Since they are political figures who have a palpable desire for national office, the limited interplay between them has been interesting. For example, during the oil gusher crisis, Palin supported Jindal’s dubious sand berm idea. (Fortunately Jindal decided to “pivot” away from his original “bermdoggle” plan and  transmogrify the berms into barrier islands instead.) More recently, during an interview on “Meet the Press” Jindal said Palin could make a “compelling case” for the Presidency in 2012.

Former Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown wanted to meet Palin in person when she came to the Baton Rouge Books-A-Million for a signing. Brown had read Palin’s first book, and had been amused by her expressed  familiarity with the “Ranger Rick” periodical, among other things. But Palin’s visit was more strictly regulated than a TSA checkpoint, so Brown left the store disappointed and went back to his nearby house and climbed on the roof to view the proceedings from there. (I like his style, but I can’t say I recommend doing rooftop surveillance of popular political figures at “tightly controlled” events.)

If I had to guess – and I will – I’d say the basic themes of Palin and Jindal’s new books are similar. Jindal probably says our core cultural values make America great, while Palin says our core, heartfelt beliefs make America great. But I haven’t read the books yet. I’ll wait and buy a heavily discounted used version on Amazon or eBbay.

Speaking of which, a rather mischevious group called S.A.V.E LA is trying to foment dissension between the two political authors in the name of saving higher education. According to a press release:

Strengthening American Values by Educating Louisiana (S.A.V.E. LA) is a grassroots effort calling on Louisianans and Americans across the country to attend Gov. Palin’s book signings and sell purchased autographed Palin books on EBay with the proceeds being donated to Louisiana’s struggling universities in the face of Governor Jindal’s drastic cuts to higher education.

Seems like a complicated gambit, but if it means cheaper used Palin books will be available, I’m all for it.

Jindal’s poll numbers have dipped notably, but many analysts say it’s nothing for him to worry about since he has a lot of campaign money and little announced competition. Still, even with his backtracking on the berms, I think Jindal’s political situation is considerably more interesting than other pundits make it. More important than lagging indicators such as polls is how political candidates create and channel political dynamics of the electorate.

In this respect I see little upside for Jindal, while little downside for any potential challengers. To be sure, Jindal’s the overwhelming favorite to win re-election and it would be a tremendous upset if he isn’t. But that’s obvious. While I’m not predicting an upset, I want to point out that this year has all the makings of a shocking political upset.

Jindal has a tough row to hoe, and his support is soft. He’ll get lukewarm assistance from his Republican base, but Libertarians and Tea Party candidates will happily challenge him from the right. And that leaves a gaping whole in the center/left for a candidate to come out of nowhere and seize the political opportunity. I think with a little strategic creativity, things could get interesting awfully fast.

Consider this: the former president of LABI recently said he’d support temporary taxes to stave off education cuts:

I have long been a supporter of Jindal, but no more. He’s a major disappointment to me and, I believe, to thousands of people in Louisiana.

[S]tate Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, called for reinstating the income taxes cut in 2008 (according to the Stelly plan) for a few years to save higher education. I agree with doing that.

We must save higher education.

You know there’s some volatile political undercurrents when you read things like that.

A candidate could run a issue campaign based on higher education, and continually ask Jindal something like: during the Great Depression, a certain Louisiana Governor expanded and improved LSU and helped make it what it is today – were those foolish, short-sighted investments? And if they weren’t, then why are hundreds of millions of cuts the right thing to do today?

One thing’s for sure. We won’t be seeing a preponderance of those purple and gold “Tigers for Jindal” bumper stickers for the re-election campaign, like we did during Jindal’s campaign in 2007. I think the imagery might be decidedly less pleasant this time around.

Perhaps something along the lines of …(Thanks to Michael F for the graphic.)

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  • nice

    Great headline.