Friday, June 25, 2010

Strategic Blunders and Bobby Jindal

Polarization seems an endemic part of our current political climate, but would people really think that it would go so far as to affect the state responses to the current disaster, in order to score easy points against the White House. Well, according to a CBS report, Governor Jindal may be playing the political game with disaster management:
"But nearly two months after the governor requested - and the Department of Defense approved the use of 6,000 Louisiana National Guard troops - only a fraction - 1,053 - have actually been deployed by Jindal to fight the spill... "Actually we asked the White House to approve the initial 6,000," Jindal said. "What they came back and said is the Coast Guard and BP had to authorize individual tasks."...Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen...said Jindal is just flat wrong. "There is nothing standing in the governor's way from utilizing more National Guard troops," Allen said...In fact, the Coast Guard says every request to use the National Guard has been approved, usually within a day. Now Jindal's office acknowledged to CBS News the governor has not specifically asked for more Guard troops to be deployed."

Now this is speculation, but the backtracking by the Governors office does highlight an interesting disconnect between rhetoric and reality here. I understand some would say that this is just a politician being a politician, trying to rhetorically demonize the only other plausible option for voters, the democrats, while not really changing the substance of the situation. But it seems to go against the strategic interests of politicians in our representative system. Jonathan Bernstein, over at his Plain Blog about politics, has a series of posts, here and here, arguing about the nature of representation in a system that does not rely on direct governance. For Bernstein, representation does not mean that a politician follows in lock step with the public opinion polls within their given constituency, but instead they create a pseudo-contract between politicians and constituents, over campaign promises that are made:

"And, again, my point is that as long as a politician fulfills her promises, and explains what she's doing in a way that strengthens her constituents' trust in her, then she's a good representative."

Now this is what strikes me as interesting about Jindal's move. Though these rhetorical jabs may help to bolster him in relation to Obama, the politically strategic maneuver would be to bolster him in relation to the next person he sees challenging his governorship. Empty promises post this disaster seems to violate one of the fundamental tenets of his platform from the 2007 campaign, that Louisiana would not experience the sort of state level incompetence they experienced during Katrina under Governor Blanco. So what is Governor Jindal doing here? It seems, though, many counted his chances at national prominence over his now infamous response to Obama's State of the Union, he's playing like a politician who is responding to a base of constituents far beyond his home state. It's nice to see even the the fringe candidates gearing up for 2012.

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