As observers vent and exercise over the choice of the increasingly conservative, obviously skilled, but very baggage-laden good-old-boy for Senate president, one view to understand the choice (besides the fact that the master politician Alario had made his election an accomplished fate that only substantial Jindal exertion might have stopped) is that Jindal recognizes in a body where perhaps half the members can be counted upon to vote for conservative principles most of the time, he needs an experienced hand to guide his agenda through. And, it is asserted, this agenda at the very least aims to leave a lasting imprint on the state, and perhaps promotes Jindal as ready for high office at the national level.
It’s a logical thesis, and, given that conservative policy is good for what ails Louisiana, its people will be better off for it.
Not that they should expect revolutionary changes because, by nature, Jindal is a cautious reformer more eager to tinker at the margins to make government work better than to remake it wholesale in a dramatically smaller way, but, nonetheless, beneficial change.
If this prospective future lies behind Jindal’s thinking, this also signals Jindal’s political plans going forward. It means that Jindal seems unlikely to want to pursue a U.S. Senate seat in 2014, when the third term of current occupant Sen. Mary Landrieu ends. This should surprise few, as Jindal never has shown much inclination to serve as a legislator. He did do a term-and-a-half in the U.S. House, but more for the need to have some elective office and way to keep his hand in policy-making affecting the state than any strong desire to make a career of that line of work. No, he always has shown preference for executive office, and he will aim for that.
It also means, besides not wanting to leave office early for the Senate, he also appears unlikely to leave early for any kind of appointive position in a Republican presidential administration, with odds continuing to increase that in a little more than a year this transfer of power will manifest. If he wants to build a solid policy agenda, a year or so more as governor gives him little time to do that. He’ll need the full four years to burnish his national credentials on that account. Additionally, something like a cabinet spot certainly has proven itself recently as no launching pad for getting the top job, Herbert Hoover being the last president to follow that path and look how that turned out. Especially today, if having higher ambitions, a high-profile job in an administration serves poorly because you have to take orders and don’t have much leeway to pursue policy independently and easily identifiable as yours. If truly ambitious, Jindal will pass on any such offers.
Which is why people should believe him when he declares he will not leave his current office early – but with one exception. A vice presidential nomination would suit Jindal well as it is a free shot not costing him in resources nor his job, and if his ticket wins, he becomes well-placed for a run for the White House as he approaches 50. Even a loss benefits him, for presidential candidates deservedly catch the blame for that.
So, absent this one situation, we’d better get used to Jindal being around the next four years, and in pursuit of incremental policy changes in a conservative direction that he along with us should hope succeed.
Key: Jindal, John Alario, Louisiana, Landrieu, Republican, US Senate