Say what you will about Gov. Bobby Jindal, he knows which way the wind blows — especially the ill winds on the Far Right. On Oct. 1, the day the federal government shut down and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) went into effect, Jindal penned one of his increasingly frequent op-eds, this one for the website The Daily Caller. After a few paragraphs distinguishing himself from President Barack Obama on the Affordable Care Act (a familiar refrain from Jindal and others in the GOP), the governor took the equally familiar step of disassociating himself from Beltway Republicans, a group with which he has been all too eager to consort in the past — and, his denials notwithstanding, a circle he cannot wait to join as the next step on his political trajectory.
"Republican governors are not going to take a back seat to anyone in Washington anymore," wrote Jindal, who is the current chairman of the Republican Governors Association. "Up until now, we have just lived with the brand that Washington gave us. Republican governors don't just talk about conservative ideas, we put them into action. The answers aren't coming from Washington. Republican governors are driving the American comeback.
"We are no longer going to outsource the Republican brand to the folks in Washington," Jindal concluded.
Why this, why now? Jindal has always been happy to get support from the far-right wing of the Republican party, including (especially) the tea party, which was the architect of last week's government shutdown. But the governor also can read polls. As the engine of the federal government slowed down and finally sputtered last week, it was clear Americans did not like the shutdown — and they blamed D.C. Republicans for it.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Oct. 1 stated, "American voters are divided on Obamacare, with 45 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed, but they are opposed 58-34 percent to Congress cutting off funding for the health care law to stop its implementation." Moreover, according to the same poll, "American voters oppose 72-22 percent Congress shutting down the federal government to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act."
Jindal has been a voluble foe of Obamacare and remains one of the few GOP governors who refuse to set up state health exchanges to provide care for their states' many poor citizens. Now, he suddenly sees fit to put a bit of air between himself and Congressional Republicans, who are leading the national charge against Obamacare but whose tactics (shutting down the government) are far less popular than either the president or his signature domestic policy triumph. (To be fair, Congressional Democrats are almost, but not quite, as unpopular as the GOP.) Jindal, in fact, is less popular than Obama here in Louisiana — unthinkable just two years ago.
Faced with nearly three-quarters of American voters opposing the government shutdown over Obamacare, Jindal had a fine needle to thread — assuming he didn't want to offend his fellow Louisiana Republicans. U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, Bill Cassidy and John Fleming all held fast on the shutdown, blaming Democrats for not negotiating. (In truth, Congressional Democrats were willing to negotiate for weeks, but defunding Obamacare was off the table.) Instead of finding a way to focus on Democrats, however, Jindal pulled the political equivalent of a drive-by shooting; he sprayed the entire Washington establishment, which of course includes many Republicans. Congress is wildly unpopular among voters of all stripes. Jindal's latest rant proves that he'll step on anyone to further his ambitions.
Like it or don't — and Jindal doesn't — the Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress, signed by the president and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ironically, the stunts pulled in Washington last week didn't do a thing to hinder implementation of the Affordable Care Act. By 10 a.m. on the first day of enrollment, 2 million Americans had gone online to enroll or get information, crashing the government servers that had been set up to handle the program.
Who's really hurt by the shutdown? Hundreds of thousands of federal workers, including more than 22,000 from Louisiana, as well as thousands of Louisianans who have to pay for 100 percent of the programs on the health exchange because Jindal refuses to expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana. No wonder voters are upset — at Congress and at Jindal.
Bobby Jindal doesn't like Obamacare. He also doesn't like his disapproval numbers. Firing a broadside at Washington was probably his safest course of action. Like the shutdown itself, though, it didn't accomplish a thing.