Hours after the New York Times published Gov. Bobby Jindal’s jaw-dropping op-ed casting some of the country’s most prominent companies as willing tools of “the radical left,” his national political group blasted out an email boasting that Jindal’s “trending on Facebook.”
Well, good for him.
It’s terrible, though, for the state he still purports to lead.
Of course, it was no surprise to see Jindal’s latest grab for attention, a Thursday column headlined “I’m Holding Firm Against Gay Marriage,” go viral. Drowning out the occasional virtual cheer were countless comments mocking Jindal for shamelessly pandering to arch-conservative presidential primary voters, for embracing discrimination and for taking some truly weird logical leaps.
All this as nationwide acceptance of same-sex marriage continues to grow more quickly than anyone could have imagined. In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, support hit a new high of 61 percent, and all indications are that it will continue to climb.
In vowing to push Louisiana’s proposed “Marriage and Conscience Act” even though lawmakers wrestling with the state’s budget mess have little appetite for the divisive fight, Jindal came out swinging against companies that see the bill as an offense to their existing employees, a threat to their ability to attract new workers to the state and anathema to their corporate values of respect and inclusiveness.
Those companies may have forced their point of view on poor Indiana and Arkansas, both of which recently watered down measures originally intended to allow private companies to refuse to do business with same-sex couples.
But they’re not going to intimidate him! Jindal’s message to “any corporation that contemplates bullying our state” is this: “Save your breath.”
The measure Jindal’s pushing, House Bill 707 by freshman state Rep. Mike Johnson, doesn’t directly track the Indiana and Arkansas proposals. Instead, it says the state can’t deny licenses and other government recognition based on a company’s owners’ views on same-sex marriage, which is likely to become legal in Louisiana once the U.S. Supreme Court rules this summer. It’s unclear how the bill would work in practice, but the underlying message is obvious: Secular businesses such as florists and caterers shouldn’t have to provide their services to gay couples.
Like all those companies that fought back against religious liberty laws elsewhere — everyone from progressive West Coast tech firms to Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, a company that’s as mainstream as they come — IBM, which has a big new technology center in downtown Baton Rouge, came out strongly against the Louisiana bill. So did tourism officials in New Orleans, who rely heavily on the type of visitors and meeting planners who might stay away should the bill become law.
They’re not doing it only out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re letting the free market speak. Aren’t conservatives like Jindal supposed to believe in that?
Yet such pushback sent Jindal off the rails.
In his view, those firms aren’t hoping to avoid alienating customers and employees. They’re violating a “grand bargain” that “requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters.” Because, you know, “the left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence.” And “the same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly.”
While you’re wrapping your head around all that, consider this: IBM, the biggest business to weigh in directly on Louisiana’s proposed law, didn’t just invest in Louisiana. Louisiana invested in IBM, to the tune of $29.5 million in incentives over 12 years from a package assembled by Jindal’s department of economic development. When the agreement was announced, the governor called it a “game changer that will have a generational impact on Baton Rouge and our entire state.”
But economic coups like the company’s software development center will be hard to attract in the future if Louisiana projects a hostile cultural environment. Whether or not the bill passes, Jindal’s widely circulated diatribe already has done just that.
It’s just one more aspect of the governor’s scorched-earth strategy, his increasingly desperate drive to gain national traction no matter the damage he does to his state.
If Jindal wants to be the last man standing against progress and acceptance, I guess that’s his right. But does he really need to take us down with him?