One day after launching an exploratory committee to help him decide whether to seek the GOP's presidential nomination in 2016, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order enforcing so-called "religious freedom" protections in the Bayou State. Hours earlier, state lawmakers killed a law that would have mandated similar provisions. "In Louisiana, the state should not be able to take adverse action against a person for their belief in traditional marriage," Jindal said in a written statement Tuesday. "That's why I'm issuing an Executive Order to prevent the state from discriminating against people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has spent a fair amount of time looking for a signature issue that would help him stand out in the Republican presidential race. After the recent Indiana debacle, the far-right governor found the cause he was looking for: above all others, Jindal would champion right-to-discriminate measures.
The governor, who wraps up his second term this year, recently began pushing a "Marriage and Conscience Act," which was intended to prevent "adverse action" against anyone who opposes same-sex marriage for religious reasons. The more Louisiana business leaders urged Jindal to change course, the more the GOP governor thumbed his nose at "job creators," as if their opposition made him appear more populist.
He had it all figured out: his state's civil rights laws would be a mess, but Jindal would have a trump card he could use to impress right-wing primary and caucus voters. Members of the Republican-led state legislature, however, aren't running for president, and they recently decided not to pass the "Marriage and Conscience Act."
Yesterday, as msnbc's Rachel Kleinman reported, Jindal decided to bypass the legislature and issue an executive order.
The Times Picayune quoted a joint statement from Equality Louisiana, an LGBT rights group, and Louisiana Progress Action. Referencing the governor's ambitions, it read, "In the end, his extreme ideology is only making the state a worse place for those of us who actually plan to live here past his last day in office."
A political and legal fight is likely to ensue, but I'm curious about the larger context: does the right now see Jindal as some kind of lawless dictator?
In recent years, it seems every time President Obama tires of Congress' ineptitude and takes executive action, Republicans use it as clear evidence of Obama's tyrannical tendencies. It's up to elected legislators to approve new policies, we're told, and it's up to chief executives to implement those policies.
Executive orders, the argument goes, undermine the American system and show contempt for institutional norms. "Executive overreach" is a threat to us all.
Whether or not the president's critics ever actually believed these talking points, it's interesting how much conservatives are outraged by executive actions, except when they're not.
Jindal isn't alone, of course. Jeb Bush recently boasted that, as president, he'd use executive orders to undo a variety of Obama's policies. Three years ago, Mitt Romney repeatedly argued that, if elected, he'd take all kinds of executive actions to advance his priorities, rather than waiting for Congress to approve legislation.
The point isn't to play some gratuitous game of "gotcha." Rather, the important takeaway from this is understanding that when Republicans argue that their anti-Obama condemnations are borne of deeply held principles, they're kidding themselves. If any one of them publicly blast Jindal for bypassing state lawmakers and approving his legislative goal unilaterally, I'll gladly update this piece, but I suspect it's not going to happen.