By M.D. Kittle |Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Bobby Jindal played the part of scold.
The Louisiana governor and rising star of the Republican Party gave his fellow GOPers a stern dressing down last week at the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Charlotte, N.C.
He was as blunt as he was quick in his scalding keynote speech.
“We must stop being the stupid party,” Jindal said. “I’m serious. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. It’s no secret, we had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I’m here to say, we’ve had enough of that.”
The RNC meeting, like the Democratic Party of Wisconsin annual get-together just days after Democrats were pummeled in the state’s unprecedented recall elections, was designed to be an occasion to look forward. It really was made for communal wound licking for a party trying to collect itself from an electoral smackdown at the polls, in which President Barack Obama, the poster child for conservative disdain, easily won a second term over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — a moderate Republican many Republicans weren’t sold on.
Get it together, Jindal — and other key Republicans — have admonished the party and its leaders, or the GOP, at least nationally, could be finishing second for the foreseeable future.
Lesson 1: Appeal to a broader base. Case in point, the Latino vote.
Latino voters made up 10 percent of the electorate, a 10 percent increase from four years before. Obama picked up 71 percent of the Latino vote.
“It’s a huge issue. It’s a big reason why they (Republicans) lost states like Virginia, Florida and Colorado,” William Frey, a senior demographer at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution told Bloomberg News following the presidential election. “As Hispanics continue to disperse to the South and West — Republican strongholds — the party becomes increasingly at risk.”
Beyond the numbers is the political perception. As Jindal pointed out, the GOP got stuck on the PR rusty nails of candidates like Todd Akin, who looked all but certain to bring home a Missouri U.S. Senate seat to the Republican column before he opened his mouth and spouted off about “legitimate rape.”
Akin lost. In part, he took Romney and other Republican candidates with him. The gender gap was pronounced, with Romney grabbing the male vote by a 52-45 margin, but being trounced by women, who supported Obama 55 percent to 44 percent.
Establishment Republicans in particular have called for moderating forces in the party, stepping back from the ultra-conservative tea party movement that marched into power in 2010 as a countervailing stand against Obama and the threat of ever-expanding government.
Don’t count Ron Johnson among the soul-searching crowd — at least when it comes to the fiscal conservative principles he ran on.
The Wisconsin U.S. senator arguably is the prototype tea party conservative, elected in 2010 on a pledge to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Obamacare, if you’re Johnson.
No matter November’s outcome, Johnson still thinks the massive expansion of the federal government is the worst thing since Stalin-sliced bread. In a recent video interview with the Atlas Society, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, disciples of the objectivism teachings of author-philosopher Ayn Rand, Johnson calls the health care act the “biggest assault on our freedom in our lifetime.”
And the senator is holding down the fort on a host of fiscal and conservative issues.
Johnson joined 35 other Republican senators in voting against a $51-billion Hurricane Sandy public aid bill, legislation opponents said was packed with pork for initiatives well outside the damage zone. Johnson did vote for a failed amendment that would offset the cost of the bill with rescissions and discretionary cap reductions.
Johnson and most of his fellow conservatives did vote for the compromise bill that averted the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The businessman turned lawmaker said he did so because he wanted to protect the vast majority of Wisconsinites from a tax increase. More so, he said, the revenue raised will take a 7-percent bite out of projected deficits.
Johnson told the Atlas Society that the bigger issue in play is the unchecked growth of government. He said tax-burdened Americans collectively are suffering from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome.
“That’s where people who have been kidnapped are grateful to their captors when they show them a little bit of mercy,” Johnson said. “And collectively, we really don’t understand the freedoms we are really losing.”
Johnson would seem to be the kind of conservative Lousiana’s Jindal, a possible presidential hopeful in 2016, is swinging at, the PowerPoint preachers of escalating debt.
“Today’s conservatism is completely wrapped up in solving the hideous mess that is the federal budget, the burgeoning deficits, the mammoth federal debt, the shortfall in our entitlement programs…even as we invent new entitlement programs,” Jindal said in his speech.
“We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping. This is a rigged game, and it is the wrong game for us to play.
“We think if we can just unite behind a proposal to cut the deficit and debt … if we can just put together a spreadsheet and a PowerPoint and a TV ad …. all will be well,” the governor said.
But for Johnson, who believes the federal government’s addiction to debt in a nation of citizens that is growing ever more dependent on government, critical numbers are too important to ignore. He’s not shy about letting the world know.
Go to Johnson’s Senate webpage and you’ll find a dizzying array of colorful charts, graphs, PowerPoint presentations – all screaming the fiscal dangers of an indebted government.
Johnson is unchanged in his premise that the real root of U.S. debt is the size, scope and resulting costs of government.
“If you’re looking for a metric that we have to measure, we have to control, it’s government in relation to the size of our economy,” representing a quarter or more of the U.S. economy, Johnson said. “That’s not sustainable.”
At least in substance, if not in chart graph approach, Johnson and Jindal seem to agree. How the Republican Party carries that message, and just who is willing to hear it, appears to be at the core of the party’s rebuild.
See Johnson’s full interview with Atlas Society.
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]