The Jindal effect

David Broder:

Bobby Jindal received a hero's welcome when he stopped here one day last week -- and no wonder. He had just been elected Louisiana's next governor, and he came by to say thank you to some of the people who had put him in office.

He is a phenomenon -- as much of a star here as Barack Obama was when he was elected U.S. senator from Illinois three years ago. Jindal is even younger than Obama, just 36, and is as slim and intense. An intellectual match for Obama, Jindal is a graduate of Brown University and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

When I met him, he was the staff director for a bipartisan commission on Medicare, working with then-Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana. He had already been director of the state health department, and he soon went home to run for governor as a Republican.

He led in the primary four years ago, then lost a runoff. But this year -- after being elected to a second term in the House of Representatives -- he came back to win the state's highest office.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Jindal is the son of Indian immigrants, his father an engineer and his mother a nuclear physicist. He is the first nonwhite to be elected governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction. A Roman Catholic convert, he has told interviewers that he experienced no discrimination because of race or ancestry, saying, "All that is behind us."


There is more, but I think the thing that troubles Democrats nationally the most about the Jindal election is that he refused to be a victim. That is also probably what made his appeal so broad.

The "down with the struggle" civil rights lobby should be as frightened by this as they were by Clarence Thomas' rise to the Supreme Court without their backing. Both achieved success on the basis of their competence and the content of their character. That is bad news for the affirmative racism, i.e. affirmative action, groups.

The lessons that everyone should take from these successes is that you should not let the circumstances of your birth be an excuse for failure.


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