Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal delivered an impassioned speech on the necessity of winning the argument for conservatism at the state level at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The address received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Jindal began his speech by recycling several jokes from his recent Gridiron Dinner speech, at which he skewered President Obama and the media in equal measure.
“The Gridiron Dinner used to be known as the night the media and the administration set aside their differences…” Jindal quipped, “…back when they had differences.”
But Jindal did get serious after a few minutes.
“After losing two Presidential elections in a row, now is certainly the time for some candid discussion,” Jindal said. “First radical concept I want to talk about is simply this: America is not the Federal government…A debate about which party can better manage the Federal government is a very small and shortsighted debate.”
Jindal went on to say that if someone observed America’s media, they could be forgiven for thinking Washington was the “hub of America” because it was the location of the federal government, whereas the states would be seen as virtual irrelevances. He also scolded conservatives for being distracted with what he described as “government sideshows in Washington,” like the sequester.
“Today’s conservatism is in love with zeros. We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping,” Jindal said. “If we could just put together a spreadsheet, then all would be well. I’m gonna say this obsession with zeros has all of us in our party focusing on what? On government…We as Republicans have to accept that government number-crunching, even conservative number-crunching, is not the answer to our nation’s problems. We must also face one more cold, hard fact – Washington is so broken, any proposal based on fiscal sanity will be deemed unserious by the media.”
After a few more lines, Jindal joked, “Nothing serious is deemed serious in Washington, DC.”
What Jindal meant by avoiding budget questions and the love of zeros rapidly became clear throughout the rest of the speech – he believes conservatives must avoid talk of austerity and should instead focus on promoting growth. In fact, Jindal explicitly attacked the idea of austerity later in his speech.
“We must not become the party of austerity. We must become the party of growth,” Jindal said. “Who of you here wants to sign up to slow the decline of the United States of America? I sure don’t. That’s what we’ve got Democrats for.”
Jindal also argued for reforming the Republican party so it would be more inclusive, without dampening principle.
“We don’t need to change what we believe as conservatives,” Jindal said. “Our principles are timeless. We have to be comfortable with the fact that our liberal critics in the media will say we haven’t changed anything unless we embrace abortion and socialism. My answer to them is simple: We already have one liberal party in America. We don’t need another one. But we do need to reorient our focus to the real world where conservatism thrives, in the real world beyond Washington and beyond the Beltway.”
Jindal’s ultimate call – to “win the argument” – was tempered with a final call to action in his speech. “As I close, let me just make this observation: America is facing her greatest choice, and the hour is late,” Jindal said. “We can either go down the government path or the American path. Now the Left is trying to turn the government path into the American path. Shame on us if we let them do that. We believe that freedom incentivizes ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and that makes America an exceptional nation.”
He concluded, “We must shift the eye-line and the ambition of our conservative movement away from managing government and towards the mission of growth. It falls to us to show the younger generation the wisdom and the great benefit of the American path.”
Watch Jindal’s speech below: