A good thing happened in my home state over the weekend. The voters of Louisiana made history by electing the first Indian-American ever to serve as a state governor, Bobby Jindal. The result was good for a couple of reasons.
First, Jindal ran on an ethics reform platform. Anyone who knows anything about Louisiana politics knows that if Louisiana needs anything, it’s ethics reform. Politics in the bayou state has a sordid history (think Huey Long, Edwin Edwards and David Duke), and Jindal represents a break from that checkered past.
Second, Jindal’s election is a vindication of a defeat at the hands of a racially charged Democrat campaign four years ago. The Weekly Standard described Jindal’s loss to Kathleen Blanco in 2003 in this way:
‘There’s one more thing to know about Jindal: He was the victim of a racist attack by Democrats. In the governor’s race, Jindal was leading Democrat Kathleen Blanco in polls–and the Democrats went all out. At a rally in New Orleans, the president of College Democrats of America, Ashley Bell, said Jindal “is Arab American” and “the Republican token attempt to mend bridges long burnt with the Arab-American community.” Bell also referred to “Bush’s personal ‘Do Boy’ Bobby Jindal.” Blanco was quoted as telling a Democrat eliminated in the primary that “a Hindu out-Catholic’d both of us.”
‘But it was a TV ad in the final week of the campaign that was pivotal. The spot began with a screaming headline, “Wake Up, Louisiana,” and concluded by asserting, “They hope we won’t wake up until it’s too late.” The ad was reminiscent of efforts to rally white Southerners against supporters of racial integration and civil rights legislation. And it showed a picture of Jindal with disheveled hair, a picture that some Republicans claimed was touched up to make Jindal’s skin look darker. Jindal wound up losing to Blanco in areas where the so-called Bubba vote–white backers of Ku Klux Klansman David Duke in earlier elections–is strong. He lost statewide by 52 to 48 percent.
‘Jindal never complained publicly about the ad, which criticized his record as hospital chief, or other attacks. Nor did he air a rebuttal. To this day, he’s philosophical about his defeat. “I got a faith that sustains me,” he says. “I desperately wanted to be governor,” but from God’s perspective, “it doesn’t make a difference” who wins a governor’s election. “I’ve got every reason to be grateful. I didn’t feel any regrets. We tried everything we could. When God closes one door, he opens another.”‘
How can you not like a guy who talks like that? I couldn’t be happier for Jindal and for the state. We’ll be expecting great things from the new governor.