Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took an unconventional route to rebutting last week’s inaugural address by President Barack Obama when he called his very own Republican Party “the stupid party.”
In a speech given at the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Charlotte, N.C. on Thursday, Jindal outlined a seven-part plan for the Republican Party moving forward after their disappointing loss in November’s presidential election. Though his word choice in describing the Republican Party was probably chosen mainly to attract attention, Jindal undoubtedly has a point.
Jindal, who many predict will seek a presidential bid in 2016, said that his party “does not need to change [its] principles.” Instead, it does need to change certain outdated and irrational policies if it is to be regarded as anything other than stupid. If the Republican Party is to gain ideological respect and attract new followers in the near future, it must create a platform that is consistent with the pure principles of free enterprise, individual rights and limited government across the board.
The main problem facing the Republican Party is not the way it markets itself to voters, as Jindal suggests. Instead, the problem is with the presence of policies that contradict the main goals of the party.
One of the most glaring examples of “stupid” policy that needs to be changed concerns defense and military spending. Republicans cannot expect to be taken seriously when it comes to talking about spending cuts and fiscal conservatism when the party continues to support exorbitant increases in yearly defense spending, which has increased to $530 billion from $287 billion in 2001. Frighteningly, this increase does not take into account the primary cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, it is the federal government’s responsibility to protect the homeland from threats both foreign and domestic. But it is very debatable whether the recent excessive expenditures on defense have actually increased the safety of Americans.
The Republican Party is quickly losing support among young people, who have grown up in a generation of war and doomsday predictions of economic collapse. Continuing to hypocritically advocate for an unsustainable defense budget while also criticizing Democrats for opposing spending cuts will do nothing to increase Republicans’ allure to a war-weary generation of young voters who will inevitably inherit crushing debt.
Another major point that Jindal made that must be taken seriously is that Republicans are not the party of “big” anything. Those Republicans loudly declaring the need for a constitutionally limited, nonintrusive government while inserting themselves into the personal lives of individual citizens will not be able to maintain support, let alone credibility, with voters.
Nothing says “big government” like legislation that prevents individuals from certain rights on the basis of moral relativism — most notably, continuing to deny the right for gay citizens to marry because the Bible or conservative tradition says homosexuality is wrong.
Though such a justification may have worked for our parents’ generation, young people will not continue to accept such an intolerant and categorically restrictive argument. The Republican Party must accept the fact that continuing to promote policies like “traditional marriage” will only alienate young voters who might be attracted to the Republicans’ otherwise principled devotion to limited government and individual freedom.
The most intelligent thing that the Republican Party could do is to adapt to our present realities. That does not mean compromising its fundamental principles, as Jindal correctly states, but it does require some revisions to avoid ideological inconsistency and attract dedicated followers in the future.
That means returning to a platform that truly espouses limited government: No more corporate welfare, no more government interference in the love lives of mutually consenting adults and no more spending increases where they are not absolutely necessary.
Far from being stupid, the foundational ideals of the Republican Party are arguably the most common sensical ones for restoring and maintaining a prosperous and free America. It is time to stand on a platform that communicates this clearly and unequivocally, and Jindal’s statement is a step in the right direction.
Sarah Cueva is a junior majoring in Middle East studies and political science. Her column “Homeland” runs every Wednesday.