Bobby Jindal could lead us to another place, but it's not the White House

Bobby Jindal's campaign probably won't last the summer. But it's still historically significant. He should stop ducking Confederate flag questions and stand with leaders like Nikki Haley.

Gerald Herbert/AP
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal waves after announcing his candidacy for president in Kenner, La., on Wednesday.

Bobby Jindal will not win the presidency a year from next November.

His campaign for the White House probably won’t last the summer.

The Louisiana governor barely registers more than a blip on the national polls and it’s hard to know exactly where he is going to get enough money to run a decent campaign.

Yet, his entry into the race is still historically significant.

In a nation fraught with white-black tension, Jindal could lead us to a different place.

He is not the only one. Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, and Tim Scott, the junior senator from South Carolina, have played a leading role in trying to heal their state in the wake of the stunning murder of nine worshippers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Those two are leading by more than just example, trying to finally resolve, once and for all, the Civil War.

Scott gave an emotional speech on the Senate floor, relating the words of the son of one of the victims, “God cares for this people. God still lives.”

With similar emotion, Haley announced her support for removing the Confederate battle flag from a position of honor at the State Capitol building.

Jindal is a smart guy in a hurry. He moved from a staff position in the Bush Administration to a seat in Congress to the governor’s mansion and now to a run for the White House, all before turning 45.

He did it as an immigrant’s son. Six months before he was born in Baton Rouge, his parents migrated from Punjab, India. Punjab is majority Sikh, but Jindal’s family were Hindu. When Bobby was in high school, he converted to Catholicism.

He is the second Roman Catholic convert in the presidential field. Jeb Bush is the other one.

Like many first generation immigrants, Jindal has worked hard to put the hyphen away. He is an American, not an Indian-American. As a result, he has alienated some of the Indian-Americans who used to claim him as a native son.

Jindal has tried hard to assimilate into the conservative culture of Louisiana. He formed “Bubbas for Bobby” to help him win the redneck vote in his race for governor. He has consistently staked out the most ideologically conservative positions on a variety of topics.

His basic view of assimilation is to become more conservative than the conservatives, more Catholic than the pope, more redneck than the rednecks.

Bobby’s tenure as governor started out strong, but his ambition to run for president sucked the energy out of his executive responsibilities. He has become increasingly unpopular because he hasn’t governed well.

Louisiana might be doing well economically, but Louisiana’s government is a mess, and nobody deserves more blame than Jindal.

And yet, the Jindal story is still compelling.

He is a smart guy. He is an immigrant. He is an Asian. And he is running for president in the Republican primary.

He ducked questions about the Confederate flag, not wanting to alienate the hardliners he hopes to appeal to in his presidential campaign.

For Jindal, he might think he is showing enough courage simply by running for president as an Indian-American.

I think he would show better form and more courage if he vocally backed his fellow Indian-American, Nikki Haley, and followed suit by expressing clearly that the rebel flag belongs in a museum and not on a license plate.

Jindal is not going to win as president. He should accept that reality, even as he is running for the Oval Office, and start being a leader that garners respect from all sides.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at http://www.thefeeherytheory.com/.

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