With his state government facing a $1.6 billion budget hole, Gov. Bobby Jindal nevertheless found time last week to publish an op-ed in The New York Times suggesting that Louisiana is being oppressed by champions of gay marriage.
Gay marriage isn’t even legal in Louisiana, and the state already has a religious liberty law to protect those who oppose it. Even so, freshman state Rep. Mike Johnson, of Bossier City, is pushing another religious conscience bill that’s redundant at best and, at worst, so broad that it could cause future legal problems.
IBM, which has a new operation in Baton Rouge, is opposing the bill, rightly recognizing it for what it is — a cold shoulder to gay people. That kind of intolerance isn’t good for business, a constituency that conservatives like Jindal are supposed to champion.
In spite of that, Jindal used his Times piece to complain that corporate America is in cahoots with “radical liberals,” the governor’s favorite term of dismissal for anyone who doesn’t embrace his increasingly marginal worldview.
The governor’s critics chalk up his rhetorical excess to his presidential aspirations, which presumably hinge on an appeal to the basest hatreds of primary voters. But in failing to get much traction in his ostensible bid for the White House, Jindal is forgetting the best traditions of his party. Abraham Lincoln, the GOP’s patron saint, won hearts and minds by appealing to “the better angels” of those he led. Ronald Reagan, Jindal’s professed role model, captivated the public imagination because of his native optimism.
Reagan aspired to create a national mood in which it was morning in America, as his 1984 re-election campaign proclaimed. But in Jindal’s peculiar universe, the clock is always striking midnight, a time of fear rather than possibility.
That brand of paranoia doesn’t seem to be resonating in the country at large, and it’s an embarrassment to the state that Jindal was elected to lead.