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Good riddance, Bobby Jindal: Louisiana's disastrous governor gets the comeuppance he deserves

Absentee Louisiana Governor finally calls it quits. What took him so long?


Sean Illing
November 19, 2015 12:23AM (UTC)

“I’ve come to the realization this is not my time” – Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal has announced he’s “suspending” his presidential campaign. One wonders what took the Louisiana governor so long. He couldn’t raise money. He couldn’t crack 1 percent in the national polls. He never gained any traction with conservative evangelicals, despite pandering mercilessly for over a year. And he failed to attract the media attention he so desperately wanted.

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Jindal’s campaign was a political misadventure from the start. In the coming days, the postmortem analyses will detail every folly, every gaffe, and every misstep. They’ll talk about Jindal’s painfully awkward response to Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address. They’ll talk about his ironic demand that the GOP “stop being the stupid party.” They’ll talk about his contrived folksy demeanor and his inability to connect with conservatives in Iowa and New Hampshire. They’ll talk about his inflammatory op-eds and his “no-go zones” speech and his immigrant bashing and his embarrassing response to the Oregon shooting and his creepy “To Catch a Predator” announcement video.

And they should talk about all of that.

What’s unlikely to receive the attention it deserves, at least in the national press, is the concrete costs of Jindal’s doomed campaign. If you don’t live in Louisiana, it’s impossible to appreciate just how devastating his governorship has been. It would be bad enough if Jindal were simply incompetent, if he tried and failed to manage his state.

But that’s not what happened.

Years before his official announcement on June 25, 2015, Jindal was campaigning for the presidency. Enamored with his brief stardom in 2009, he made a decision to position himself as a national figure in the Republican Party. Every political calculation he made was with an eye toward the White House – his constituents were afterthoughts. He made a political prop of Louisiana. The entire state became a platform for Bobby Jindal, Republican presidential candidate.

Instead of governing Louisiana practically and effectively, which involves compromise and long-term investments, Jindal promoted his national brand. He pursued short-term gains, stopgap measures, and political gimmicks that produced talking points for his Iowa speeches but left Louisiana in tatters. The consequences of Jindal’s irresponsibility are real and will, sadly, survive his tragic tenure.

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Now that his campaign is officially dead, however, it’s worth highlighting Jindal’s record as governor of Louisiana. This is what the man did. This is what he accomplished. This is what he leaves behind. And this what he should be remembered for.

  1. He entered office with an $865 million surplus and he will exit with a $1.6 billion deficit.
  2. Funding for higher education has been cut by more than 80 percent, and the entire system is experiencing a fiscal crisis.
  3. Funding for youth services has been cut by 40 percent.
  4. Funding for Veterans Affairs programs has been cut by 69 percent.
  5. The Department of Environmental Quality has been cut by 96 percent (in a state with a rapidly eroding coastline).
  6. He rejected a Medicaid expansion in order to protest Obamacare, and thousands of low-income Louisianans remain without health care as a result.
  7. Louisiana has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation; the highest diabetes-related death rate; the highest rate of death from breast cancer; the third highest rate of cancers deaths overall; and the eighth highest rate of teenage pregnancy.
  8. He rejected $300 million of federal stimulus money (one his favorite talking points at the time), despite Louisiana’s underfunded and crumbling infrastructure.
  9. He issued a symbolic executive order that defended discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.”
  10. He sold out his state to protect BP against legitimate lawsuits. (Side note: Jindal’s brother is a lawyer for the firm representing BP).
  11. He held a massive “prayer rally” on the state’s flagship campus, a rally that promoted his presidential campaign and distributed materials blaming gay people for hurricanes and natural disasters.
  12. He signed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allowed creationism to be taught in science courses at public schools.

There are countless other examples of Jindal’s failures, but this list is fairly illustrative of his career as Governor of Louisiana. This is what he did in order to pitch himself as a fiscally responsible, small government conservative in GOP primary states. It explains why 70 percent of Louisianans now disapprove of the job he has done. And it explains why he won’t be missed and why the Republican gubernatorial candidate following him, David Vitter, has tried unsuccessfully to run away from Jindal’s record.

The stench of Jindal’s administration will linger for years in Louisiana, and everyone here knows it. His presidential campaign was and is a punchline, but his governorship was a moral and political failure, and a tragedy for thousands of Louisianans. If he’s ever elected again for public office, I can assure you it won’t be as a Louisianan.

We’re done with him. Thankfully, the country is too.

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Watch our mash-up of some of Jindal's most over-used lines:
[jwplayer file="http://media.salon.com/2015/11/ByeBobby.Asha_.11.18.2015.mp4" image="http://media.salon.com/2015/11/bobby-jindal.jpg"][/jwplayer]

Bobby Jindal Drops Out of Presidential Race


Sean Illing

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU. He is currently Salon's politics writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here. Email at silling@salon.com.

MORE FROM Sean Illing

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