A little over a year ago, The Wall Street Journal published a story extolling Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s ambitious plans for education reform, labeling Jindal’s sweeping set of proposals his “moon shot.” The term “moon shot” was intended as a compliment toward Jindal and a slight dig at Newt Gingrich, who was then in the midst of his failed campaign for President and who had just declared his support for a colony on the moon. The Journal was being purposely cheeky. Quoting (bold mine):
Newt Gingrich wants the U.S. to return to the moon, but as challenges go he has nothing on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s school reform plans.
Mr. Jindal wants to create America’s largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime—all in one legislative session. Any one of those would be a big win, but all three could make the state the first to effectively dismantle a public education monopoly.
At the time, I noted on my website, in a post titled “Bobby Jindal Is Mooning Louisiana,” that the comparisons between Gingrich’s moon colony and Jindal’s education reform initiative unwittingly reinforced an essential truth: Both plans were irrational, untested, grandiose, and absurd. The Wall Street Journal didn’t get it: As Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal effectively controls the legislature, the speakership, the president of the Senate, and committee membership. It wouldn’t be a “big win” for him to pass through his education “reform” initiative “all in one legislative session;” its passage was a foregone conclusion, and the hype was nothing more than manufactured publicity. “America’s largest school voucher program, broadest parental choice system, and toughest teacher accountability regime” were Jindal’s own disingenuous talking points shamelessly republished under the masthead and with the imprimatur of a once-respected newspaper now owned and controlled by the same man who owns and controls Fox News.
In only two short years, Bobby Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular. According to the most recent PPP poll, Jindal is approved by only 37% of Louisiana voters, plummeting more than 20 points since 2010. The conventional wisdom is that Jindal has damaged himself by spending so much time away from Louisiana, and this, no doubt, is also the explanation that Jindal and his allies must offer in defense of his record, credibility, and relevance. Louisiana voters, the logic goes, only disapprove of Bobby Jindal because they love him so much and just wish he was around more often.
As much as I hate to disabuse Jindal’s defenders of this, the truth is: Jindal’s standing has plummeted in Louisiana because he has spent his years as Governor promoting and pushing through a litany of disastrous and hugely unpopular policies, cynically and cavalierly using Louisiana as the testing grounds for controversial far-right legislation, much of which was cooked up behind the closed doors of powerful conservative lobbying organizations and right-wing think tanks: Privatizing prisons and hospitals, attempting to eliminate state income and business taxes with an exorbitantly high and regressive sales tax, refusing billions in federal funding for health care, high-speed rail, unemployment insurance, and a string of much-needed infrastructure projects. Governor Jindal is no longer popular because Louisiana voters simply want to see him govern more; he’s unpopular because they believe he’s not good at governing. He’s a partisan conservative media personality, more comfortable with being an archetype than in being an effective leader.
Put another way, it’s not that Louisiana voters wish Jindal would be in Baton Rouge more often; it’s that they are finally, collectively realizing a fundamental truth about the Governor they had once deemed their “Boy Wonder”: Bobby Jindal has always cared more about his national political future than his record in Louisiana.
If you require any more proof, then simply review his record on education reform, his “moon shot.”
When running for President, Mitt Romney elevated Jindal as his “point man” on education reform, and recently, Texas State Senator Dan Patrick, in announcing his intention to introduce school voucher legislation, suggested that Texas should be guided by Jindal’s program in Louisiana.
Bobby Jindal’s “bold” and “ambitious” school reform initiatives, to put it kindly, have been a series of embarrassing, unmitigated disasters:
Part II will be published on PolicyMic.com. Stay tuned.