Saving Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

I love Bobby Jindal. I really do. He’s been one of my favorite Republican leaders for years. I wanted him to run for President in 2012, and I’m glad he appears to be doing so in 2016. His story is amazing, his record is generally pretty solid, and he is a true, principled conservative.

But I’m pretty much alone on Jindal Island. The Republican electorate hasn’t taken to him yet—he’s failed to break double digits in any reputable national polls, and at the CPAC straw poll he received less than one percent of the vote.

Right now, Bobby Jindal is a non-factor. It’s still early, and there’s plenty of time to change that. Jindal certainly has the policy chops and the political savvy to make it happen.

At the American Principles Project State Lunch last month, Bobby Jindal spoke clearly and substantively about education—in fact, he has emerged as the de facto leader of the anti-Common Core movement. He has also spoken in detail about health care and foreign policy on the campaign trail. On these issues, Jindal may be one of the best conservative candidates in the field.

But where is his economic message? Governor, you need an economic message.

Not only is a coherent economic message important to voters, but it’s also important to donors—and Bobby Jindal is going to need to raise some money to win the nomination.

So what’s your economic message, Governor?

I’d like to make a suggestion: differentiate yourself from the rest of the Republican field. Don’t use the same stale Republican talking points. Instead of talking about unrelatable numbers, talk about people. Instead of focusing on tax policy and trade, talk about stagnant wages and rising prices.

We can’t make the same mistake we made in 2012. In an exit poll conducted following the election, when voters indicated they prioritized a candidate that “cared” about them personally, Obama won in a landslide, 81 to 18. That’s not because Mitt Romney didn’t care about people. That’s because of poor Republican messaging.

Governor Jindal is an extremely intelligent man. He is incredibly capable of articulating policy and relating to people. He would be the perfect messenger for a conservative version of “populist economics.”

I recommend the following economic talking points:

  • Wages are stagnant, and prices are rising. Working families are feeling the pain, and it is getting worse year after year.
  • Nobody on the Republican side is talking about this problem. While Democrats are directly speaking to working families by talking about “income inequality,” and implying that wealth redistribution is the answer, Republicans still haven’t picked up on the need to address the issue, focusing instead on vague, intangible macro-economic indicators like GDP growth.
  • The problem is the Federal Reserve’s failed monetary policy. It is causing real pain for working Americans.
  • The Federal Reserve has held interest rates near zero for far too long, resulting in an economy that helps the rich get richer, while working families struggle to pay their bills.
  • To help grow wages for working families, we need to address monetary policy. We need to audit the Federal Reserve and establish a national monetary commission to seek out viable alternatives to our current failed monetary policy. Then we need to make a change.
  • Enough is enough. We’ve tried the same failed economic policies for decades. Now the dollar is worth less. Working families have less. This obviously isn’t working. Let’s do something different.

Jindal could make this a key platform issue and become a real factor in this race overnight. I hope he does—because if he doesn’t, someone else will.

Jon Schweppe is Deputy Director of Communications for American Principles in Action.