Now, the hard part
In his acceptance speech after winning the governor's race on Saturday night, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal called for unity. "At times it was a rough campaign, lots of charges and counter charges thrown out there," said Jindal. "It's over. I bear no ill will to anyone. To all those out there who did not vote for me tonight ' I'm asking for your support as well."
In their gracious concession speeches, his Democratic opponents Walter Boasso and Foster Campbell and independent John Georges also called on their supporters to rally behind Jindal.
While this sunshine-and-rainbow honeymoon will end the minute that Jindal's sworn into office, the temporary truce is welcome ' especially by my e-mail inbox. For the past four months, I've been flooded with a dizzying 10-20 campaign announcements an hour. In the final weeks leading up to the election, it all blended into a blur of LOOK AT THESE ENDORSEMENTS and JOE MISREPRESENTED MY POSITION ON HEALTH CARE and WE JUST RAISED $10,000 and THEY'RE RUNNING A DIRTY CAMPAIGN and WATCH THIS YOUTUBE VIDEO and MY OPPONENT HATES CHILDREN AND PUPPIES, until I was ready to take a sledgehammer to my computer monitor.
And that doesn't even take into account letters to the editor. Campaigns bring out some of the most, shall we say, spirited letters. One anonymous writer called The Independent "a slime bag group of radical disgusting right-wing a--h---s," while regular reader Roder Russo of Youngsville says The Independent is "not interested in facts only the typical liberal hyper filly, innuendos and lies."
There will still be plenty of those types of missives sparked by the statewide runoffs for attorney general and commissioner of agriculture and forestry, where you can take it to the bank that AG candidates Royal Alexander and Buddy Caldwell and Ag commish candidates Bob Odom and Mike Strain will be smiling for the cameras and scratching and clawing like vultures over a carcass behind the scenes. There are also runoffs in a number of local city council races and state representative races.
But it's all over in the race for the state's top spot. Like it or not, Jindal is the new leader of Louisiana.
Longtime Louisiana political analyst and demographer Elliot Stonecipher presented some interesting theories regarding Jindal's future at his recent Oct. 3 Lafayette speech as part of The Independent Weekly's Lecture Series. Stonecipher believes that for Jindal to have a real shot at meaningful ethics reform and substantive legislative changes, our new governor is going to have to show voters how the sausage is made.
Stonecipher may be onto something. In Jindal's acceptance speech, he promised: "If and when folks try to stop [ethics reform], I will call them out. If and when people try to throw in amendments designed to derail ethics reform, I will call them out."
Go for it. Name names. Point the finger at legislators who load up bills with unrelated pork and poison pills and delay the process with procedural nonsense.
That cuts both ways. Members of the Legislature, whether they're Democrat, Republican or independent, need to have the courage to stand up to Jindal and similarly call him out if they believe he's pushing legislation that would take Louisiana down the wrong path. Battles between governors and the Legislature are nothing new, but far too often it descends into rote partisan posturing. Both sides would do well to tone down the sniping and grandstanding and give voters an honest, unfiltered peek at some of the ridiculous stunts pulled behind closed doors.
How will this factor into Jindal's ability to lead? Stonecipher has another theory worth keeping in mind: one of the reasons the state Republican Party is so united behind Jindal is because the national Republican Party views Jindal as a rising star. He represents a potential national voting base that's traditionally eluded Republicans, even more so in recent years: young minorities. With that in mind, the national party won't wait too long before bringing Jindal up on the national stage ' possibly even as a vice presidential candidate on the 2012 or 2016 ticket.
Using Stonecipher's hypothesis, Jindal can make some bold moves and fail. If his major policy initiatives are thwarted by the Democratic-majority Legislature, the national party can hold Jindal up as a candidate who vigorously tried to enact change but was derailed by partisan politics. If he succeeds, he'll have a positive track record to run on, and the national party won't risk the potential damage from any Jindal missteps in a second four-year term.
In either scenario, Jindal's likely a one-term governor. Here's hoping he makes the most of it.