It is hard to put into words how joyful I am that Bobby Jindal is now the Governor-Elect of Louisiana. I wrote about him for AmSpec here. But my emotional investment in having a conservative reformer as governor of my home state is far greater than can be indicated by just that article. I grew up in a household where my parents were activists in support of Republican Dave Treen, who ran three times for Congress and lost, ran for governor and lost (while I was tardy 11 times to 2nd Grade homeroom because I was wandering the halls trying to get classmates to bring home Treen campaign materials to their parents — what a little goofball I was!), finally was elected to Congress, then seven years later finally squeaked into the governorship (while I repeatedly rode my bike to his local headquarters to help out) — only to be repeatedly and thoroughly flummixed by twice and twice future Gov. Edwin Edwards, who basically controlled the Legislature even while Treen was in the governor’s mansion.
Cut forward to 1987 (it was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…. oops, right sentiments, wrong words), with me one year out of college. U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston was running for governor, and I was his Research Director/policy wonk. Surely, we thought, this would be the time — with Edwards now, finally, unpopular — that we would bring reform and conservativism to real, honest-to-goodness power in Louisiana. But our strategists misread the electorate, tried to play things too safe in the open primary, and let Democrat Buddy Roemer sweep in to office on our faux-right flank. Roemer was a reformer, of sorts, and in some ways conservative…but he was just, well, sort of weird. He rubbed too many people the wrong way much too quickly. A waiting Edwin Edwards made another comeback and left Roemer in the dust behind himself and Nazi David Duke. Right after that ghastly election, I left New Orleans to join Livingson on Capitol Hill….where, when I got there, the whole office was still talking about this genius intern who had served a stint in the office in late summer. Asian-Indian dude, name of Jindal. Everybody told me this kid was really going places.
Four years later, a semi-Republican named Mike Foster was elected governor. He was sorta conservative, but in many ways part of the old boy network. But, at the urging of Livingston (I was in the office during a couple of Bob’s conversations with Foster on Jindal’s behalf) and of U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, Foster interviewed Jindal and then hired him to run the state health department.
And so on. For 36 years I’ve been waiting for somebody like Jindal to finally take office with the wind behind him and no corrupt shadow governor in his way. Twenty years ago I worked all year to make it happen, but we let it slip away. For 16 of those 20 years, Jindal has been the hope for our redemption. Here is the real deal, the genuine article, a man of ethics and brains and talent and managerial competence. And he comes to Louisiana at the state’s absolute lowest moment, after it failed to recover well from the most devasting natural disaster in our nation’s history and as the patience of the rest of the country for the state’s plight seems to have worn out.
Louisiana NEEDED this. Louisiana has so much to offer, so much to celebrate, but it has such a bad political legacy to overcome. Jindal really does have the tools to make the state succeed in that effort.
Forgive the personal nature of this post, but this just means so much. America, watch this young man. If he succeeds in Louisiana, he may well have a higher calling still.