ShareThis Page

Louisiana governor: Time to 'recalibrate' conservative vision

| Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is among prominent GOP politcians thought to be possible candidates for a White House bid in 2016. AP

CHARLOTTE — To move forward, the Republican Party needs to stop arguing about government and make conservatism relevant in the daily lives of Americans, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday.

To counter President Obama's liberal vision, the party must address more than cutting spending and other austerity issues, Jindal told about 300 people at a keynote speech during the Republican National Committee's Winter Meeting.

“We have to recalibrate the compass of conservatism,” Jindal said. “We do not need to change what we believe as conservatives — our principles are timeless — but we do need to reorient our focus to the place where conservatism thrives: in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway.”

Jindal, who heads the Republican Governors Association, believes the GOP must radically change to win control of the White House and Senate.

“We must quit ‘big,' ” he said. “We are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, or big anything. We must not be the party that simply protects the well-off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive.

“... We are a populist party and need to make that clear. We must focus on real people outside of Washington, not the lobbyists and government inside Washington. We must stop competing with Democrats for the job of ‘Government Manager.' ”

His words struck home with GOP committeeman Henry Barbour of Mississippi, nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and one of five members evaluating the party to improve its chances in elections. The newly formed Growth and Opportunity Project on which Barbour serves is expected to put forth recommendations in 60 days.

Jindal is “a proven reformer in his state who has not been afraid to take on the status quo,” Barbour said, and his populist theme could be the way forward.

“No question this is appealing for all stripes of not just Republicans but ... the entire country,” he said.

Jindal's populist libertarian perspective starts with the presumption that “the Republican Party must make an optimistic case for their ideas for reform, that their policies will help the middle class and help more people join the middle class,” said Ben Domenech, a research fellow with the Heartland Institute and former GOP speechwriter.

“It's a unique perspective ... and one that deserves appreciation from Republicans in Washington,” he said.

As the country's first Indian-American governor and member of Congress, Jindal “recognizes the need to draw upon the changing demographics of the nation for the party to thrive,” said Jeff Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone College in LaPlume, Pa., northwest of Scranton.

Jindal can effectively articulate that because “he has proven that the GOP does have a message and values than can resonate with women, Latinos and other minority groups,” Brauer said.

Jindal, 41, won a second term as Louisiana's governor in 2011. Generally conservative, he supports gun rights and teaching creationism and opposes abortion and gay marriage. His first foray onto the national stage made little splash in 2009, when he offered a somewhat unremarkable rebuttal to Obama's budget. But since last fall, Jindal has been an outspoken voice for a new direction for the GOP.

“We don't believe old, top-down, industrial-age government becomes a good idea just because it agrees with us or because we are running it,” he told the 168 RNC members and their guests. “We must focus on the empowerment of citizens making relevant and different decisions in their communities while Democrats sell factory-style government that cranks out one dumbed-down answer for the whole country.

“This means re-thinking nearly every social program in Washington. Very few of them work in my view, and frankly, the one-size-fits-all crowd has had its chance.”

If leaders were creating American government today, “we would not dream of taking money out of people's pockets, sending it all the way to Washington, handing it over to politicians and bureaucrats to staple thousands of pages of artificial and political instructions to it, then wear that money out by grinding it through the engine of bureaucratic friction,” Jindal said.

Solving problems closer to home should be the first option, not the last, he said.

“Washington has spent a generation trying to bribe our citizens and extort our states,” he said. “As Republicans, it's time to quit arguing around the edges of that corrupt system.”

Lawmakers in Washington have become near-sighted by arguing about ways to change government, Jindal said. As a result, they can't recognize serious problems that impact Americans' daily lives and “any serious proposal to restrain government growth is immediately deemed ‘not-serious' in Washington.”

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.