Yuval Levin disagrees with conservatives who aren’t eager to jump on the Jindal-for-veep bandwagon. First Levin defends Jindal’s experience, arguing, “I suppose that’s less experience than some vice presidential candidates, but it’s more than others have had, and it’s more management and executive experience than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John McCain can point to.” But Levin is misreading the conservative case against putting Bobby Jindal on the GOP ticket. Most of us acknowledge that he is smart, capable, and has a good resume. We just don’t think plucking him from the governorship before he has had a chance to distinguish himself in it is good for conservatism, the GOP, Louisiana, or the country.
Levin continues, “Kathryn [Lopez] says Jindal is needed in Louisiana, and as a model of good conservative government nationally. But if he could help Republicans win the presidency, wouldn’t that be more important in the big picture?” No, I don’t think so. If John McCain manages to win the presidency in spite of the conservative/Republican brand or is seen as the last gasp of a dying coalition, that is not better for conservatism or the country in the long run than having a model of good conservative government nationally. Conservatives need to re-prove to the persuadable portion of the electorate that they can govern and that conservative policies are prudent.
Granted, seeing McCain become president ranks very low on my list of priorities, somewhere between being mugged and being in an automobile accident. But even conservatives who are bullish about McCain and think it is vital that we have a Republican president for the next four to eight years might consider reinvigorating conservatism “more important in the big picture.” If McCain is so important and he can’t get elected without Jindal, then obviously something is wrong with the right’s place in our politics.
For this reason, I might answer Levin’s next question differently than he would: “[W]hat about what’s good for McCain, or for Republicans, or for the country?” I think in the long term, having a successful reform-minded conservative governor is in the best interest of the Republicans and the country. It is certainly good for Jindal, though it might not be for McCain. But I’m less interested in McCain than in conservatism or the country. I am not, in any event, convinced that Jindal is the only way McCain can get elected and have to ask what is wrong with McCain if he is. Bad political timing has contributed to the thinning of the Republican bench. Let’s not make the mistake again.