Republicans genuinely believed Mitt Romney was going to defeat Barack Obama in 2012, right up until the Democratic president won with relative ease. Many in the GOP expressed their disgust with the results in colorful ways, but none were as memorable as then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).
Jindal spoke to Politico the week after the 2012 election and said his party would recover if it learned to “stop being the stupid party.” He added, “It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments – enough of that. It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party.”
The then-governor went on to say, “We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.” The GOP, he advised, should “stop reducing everything to mindless slogans, tag lines, 30-second ads that all begin to sound the same.”
Jindal, of course, was an awful messenger for the message. His approach to governance decimated Louisiana’s finances, and he tried to parlay his failure into a doomed presidential campaign. But five years after he denounced Republicans’ embrace of “offensive, bizarre comments” and “dumbed-down conservatism,” Jindal has apparently changed his mind.
Here was his latest pitch in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday:
You hear it all the time from Trump supporters: “I like a lot of what he’s done, especially the judges and tax cuts. But I wish he’d stop tweeting and picking fights. I wish he acted more presidential and stopped insulting reporters, entertainers, senators, foreign leaders and Gold Star families.”
Sounds right, seems smart. Yet for millions of Trump voters it misses the point entirely. Mr. Trump’s style is part of his substance. His most loyal supporters back him because of, not despite, his brash behavior. He would not be in the Oval Office today had he followed a conventional path or listened to the advisers telling him to tone down his rhetoric and discipline his behavior.
In other words, Trump rose to power because he did the opposite of what Jindal said Republicans should do – which Jindal apparently now finds quite impressive.
“At the time [Jindal urged Republicans to stop being ‘the stupid party’], the GOP’s plummet into demagogic sloganeering had reached what appeared to be a nadir,” Jon Chait noted this morning. “From the standpoint of today, that position now seems painfully naïve. And Jindal has developed a new perspective. His party, he now believes, is not stupid enough.”