Jindal may be leader Louisiana needs

SHREVEPORT, La. — Bobby Jindal received a hero’s welcome when he stopped here one day last week — and no wonder. He had just been elected as Louisiana’s next governor, and he came by to say thank you to some of the people who had put him in office.

He is a phenomenon — as much of a star here as Barack Obama was when he was elected U.S. senator from Illinois three years ago. Jindal is even younger than Obama, just 36, and just as intense. An intellectual match for Obama, Jindal is a graduate of Brown University and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

When I met him, he was the staff director for a bipartisan commission on Medicare, working with former Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana. He had already been the director of the state health department, and he soon went home to run for governor as a Republican.

He led in the primary four years ago, then lost a runoff. But this year — after serving for a term in the House of Representatives — he came back to win the state’s highest office.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Jindal is the son of Indian immigrants, his father an engineer and his mother a nuclear physicist. He is the first nonwhite to be elected as governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction. A Roman Catholic convert, he has told interviewers that he experienced no discrimination because of race or ancestry — saying, “All that is behind us.”

Jindal campaigned as a conservative reformer, saying he wanted to pass strict ethics rules for the notoriously out-of-bounds Legislature, but vowing also to spur business growth and open classrooms to the teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution.

Veteran observers of Louisiana politics have cautioned that other ambitious reformers have been thwarted by the good-‘ol-boy morass of Baton Rouge and the Legislature. Democrat Buddy Roemer, a previous generation’s hotshot, was bounced out after one term — and his reforms went nowhere in the Legislature.

But Jindal starts his term with a clear mandate from the voters.

Surprising almost everyone, he captured the governorship without a runoff, winning 54 percent of the votes against three major opponents — two Democrats and an independent. A map of the election results shows a handful of parishes voting for locally based rivals, but all across the state, from the Gulf to the Arkansas border, Jindal was the top candidate. In some populous parishes, he beat the runner-up by better than 2-to-1.

That kind of populist backing, plus a state treasury swollen with oil and gas revenues, should give Jindal real leverage as he confronts the endemic problems of a state with lagging health and education standards and serious concerns about crime.

And Louisiana seems ready for change. After the lackluster performance of Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who wavered when Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, people are eager for action.

With Jindal’s impressive victory, Republicans have established a phalanx of successful conservative governors across the Southeast who share a pragmatic streak that voters seem to like. They are the mirror image of the band of pragmatic liberal governors the Democrats have elected in states ranging from New Hampshire to Arizona, but concentrated in the Midwest — Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma.

Next door to Louisiana in Mississippi, Haley Barbour, a former Washington lobbyist and chairman of the Republican National Committee, is about to win easy re-election to a second term.

In Alabama and Georgia, two more Republicans, Bob Riley and Sonny Perdue, both former businessmen, are in their second terms as governor. And in Florida, Charlie Crist, another Republican, has proved to be even more popular in his first year in office than Jeb Bush.

The common thread among them is that their friendliness to business has not kept them from attending to other needs — be they transportation, education or the environment. It is a formula that seems to work. And, luckily for Jindal, it is a formula he is free to copy — if he wishes.

David Broder is a Washington Post columnist. Contact him by writing to davidbroder@washpost.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

The City of Everett is set to purchase two single sidewalk restrooms from Romtec, a company based in Roseburg, Ore., for $315,000. (Romtec)
Editorial: Utilitarian but sturdy restrooms should be a relief

Everett is placing four stalls downtown that should be accessible but less prone to problems.

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, June 13

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Stephens: Only way that Biden can win is not to run

The president can only commit to managing threats; his best chance for victory is to leave the ticket.

Krugman: The wealthy’s support of Trump isn’t just about money

They’re also not crazy about those who — like Biden — don’t pay sufficient deference to them.

Bouie: Should wealthy and powerful again put trust in Trump

They stepped away after Jan. 6, but — ignoring their own need for democratic norms — are drawn to autocracy.

Everett principal Betty Cobbs served kids, community for 51 years

Education and community. Those words are the best America has to offer;… Continue reading

Artist Natalie Niblack works amongst her project entitled “33 Birds / Three Degrees” during the setup for Exploring The Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The paintings feature motion-activated speakers that play each bird’s unique call. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: For 50 years Schack Art Center there for creation

The art center is more art studio than museum, supporting artists and fostering creativity in kids.

Snohomish School District’s Clayton Lovell plugs in the district’s electric bus after morning routes on Thursday, March 6, 2024, at the district bus depot in Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Money well spent on switch to electric school buses

With grants awarded to local school districts, a study puts a dollar figure on health, climate savings.

Mangrove trees roots, Rhizophora mangle, above and below the water in the Caribbean sea, Panama, Central America
Editorial: Support local newspapers work to hometowns’ benefit

A writer compares them to mangrove trees, filtering toxins and providing support to their neighbors.

FILE - A worker cleans a jet bridge at Paine Field in Everett, Wash., before passengers board an Alaska Airlines flight, March 4, 2019. Seattle-based Alaska Airlines owns Horizon Air. Three passengers sued Alaska Airlines on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, saying they suffered emotional distress from an incident last month in which an off-duty pilot, was accused of trying to shut down the engines of a flight from Washington state to San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Editorial: FAA bill set to improve flight safety, experience

With FAA reauthorization, Congress proves it’s capable of legislating and not just throwing shade.

Tufekci: Covid a lesson for officials on fragility of trust

In seeking to manage the message, scientists and officials took risks that have cost the public’s trust.

Collins: Republicans’ zeal against Biden’s son a double-standard

While they’re attacking Hunter Biden’s gun possession, they’re working to relax similar gun measures.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.