Grand Old 'Stupid Party' Unlikely to Smarten Up Anytime Soon

Among the ambitious, youngish men vying for the 2016 presidential nomination of the Grand Old Party is Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. And so it was that Jindal took the occasion of his keynote address at the Republican National Committee meeting on Thursday to offer a prescriptive list of what the GOP must do in order to start winning national elections again. Ranking halfway through his seven-point list was an item that some might urge him to list at number one: stop acting like idiots.

“The fourth thing we’ve got to do, we’ve got to stop being the stupid party,” Jindal said. “And I’m serious; it’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and our vision in real terms. It’s no secret that we had a number of Republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say, we’ve had enough of that.”

Don't worry; they'll make more.

The day after Jindal’s keynote, Rick Santorum, another likely 2016 presidential contender -- one who came closer than anyone cares to remember to winning his party’s nomination in 2012 -- stood on a stage in the frigid cold that greeted the annual March for Life. If there was ever a poster child for the stupid party, Santorum would have to be it. And he’s not going away anytime soon.

While Jindal’s reference to those who “damaged the brand” in 2012 might immediately bring to mind Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, the Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber of Midwestern Senate races, the “offensive” and “bizarre” comment offered by the latter was simply a restatement of one made by Santorum after he won the Iowa caucuses: that a baby conceived in rape is, nonetheless, a “gift from God,” entitled to a right to be born. By the way, this is precisely the same position taken by another ballyhooed potential presidential contender, Rep. Paul Ryan, recently returned to Congress, fresh off his doomed vice presidential campaign. (Ryan once described rape as "a method of conception," and introduced a bill in Congress that would have narrowed the definition of rape to mean something he calls "forcible rape.")

Of course, Santorum’s brand-damaging stupidity hardly begins and ends with his statements on rape and abortion; there’s his contention that contraception harms women, and his belief, stated before a cheering crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, that because that because nations with the highest living standards consume the most energy, efforts at conservation would bring down the standard of living in the United States.

Then there was Santorum’s battle cry against ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, based on the false assertion that it would prevent him from homeschooling his disabled daughter.

Lest you think Santorum a special case in the Party of Stupid, one need only look at members of Congress who found their path to the Capitol dome through the efforts of the Tea Party movement, which despite its own sullied brand, is now firmly entrenched in the many right-wing congressional districts gerrymandered by the GOP.  And those "bizarre" and "insulting" comments uttered by Mourdock and Akin during their Senate campaigns? These are not outlier positions; most are enshrined in the GOP platform.

Stupid is stubborn; it plans to stick around.

Then there’s Jindal himself who, though not particularly stupid, is certainly duplicitous -- a quality apparently not perceived as a threat to the Grand Old Brand.

In his remarks to the RNC, the Louisiana governor made a big case for the GOP to back off on  its quest to slash spending, and to stop acting like the party of the rich.

“Balancing government’s books is a nice goal, but that is not our primary objective,” Jindal said. “...we must not become the party of austerity; we must be the party of growth.”

Just days before he delivered those remarks, Jindal slashed social services budgets so severely in his state that people on Medicaid will no longer be eligible for hospice care, left instead, one presumes, to die painful deaths.

Days after enacting those draconian budget cuts, Jindal changed the conversation by laying out a plan to replace Louisiana’s income tax with higher sales taxes: essentially moving from a modestly progressive tax system to a purely regressive one, where the poor and middle class pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes even as benefits are slashed.

Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press parsed it this way in an analysis piece:

The change of topic has to be a welcome reprieve for a governor who's been hammered recently — at least in Louisiana — with negative attention about slashing health care programs for those on their death beds, abused women, children with behavioral problems and the poor who depend on the LSU-run hospitals for health care.

Yet speaking to the RNC, Jindal acted as if none of this had happened, even though these measures were taken only days before his speech.

“We must not simply be the party of the well-off so that they can keep their toys,” Jindal said. “We’ve got to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive.”

Good luck with that.


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