Are Republicans the 'stupid party'?

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal speaks to guests at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Rosemont, Illinois 8 June 2012 Jindal's critique: Avoid 'sideshows' but don't change principles

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Bobby Jindal is warning that the Republicans must stop being the "stupid party".

The Louisiana governor, a likely contender for his party's presidential nomination in 2016, said a number of Republicans had "damaged the brand" by making "offensive and bizarre" comments.

He's talking of course about those remarks about "legitimate rape" and how rape can't lead to pregnancy.

The Republicans who made those comments did seem to be going out of their way to back up John Stuart Mill's 1866 comment: "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it."

OK. That's the headline grabber. But it is hardly a revelation to point out that those who make weird noises during an election campaign should shut up.

Jindal's prescription

So it is worth looking at Gov Jindal's prescription in full. It is, after all, among the first contributions from a big name of the Republican party on how not to go down to defeat for a third time in a row.

Start Quote

If he is identifying [House Republicans] as a major part of the party's image problem, he is right, but he's not pointing a way out of their complex dilemma”

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He's adamant the party shouldn't change its principles. Not on taxation or big government, of course. But not on abortion or gay marriage either.

He rejects Mr Romney's apparent contention that 47% of voters were out of reach for Republicans, which was always, when you think about it, a counsel of despair.

Gov Jindal identifies a core Republican problem: they are overwhelmingly white in a country that is becoming more of a melting pot day by day.

"We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behaviour," he said.

He's a good person to say this. His parents came to the US from India in 1970. It says a lot about the way America has changed that he has become the governor of a state that resisted civil rights and defended segregation to the bitter end.

I don't want to underplay how important that is - but his speech doesn't say how Republicans can reach the fastest growing ethnic group - Latinos - without shifting their stance on immigration reform.

Moreover, I am puzzled by what appears to be the core of his message. He rejects big government - but also seems to reject the fights about it in Washington.


He calls not only the debates about gun control, but also those on the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling "sideshows".

"These are in reality sideshows in Washington that we have allowed to take centre stage in our country - and as conservatives, we are falling into the sideshow trap," he said.

This is not an isolated point.

"We seem to have an obsession with government bookkeeping," he says. "We as Republicans have to accept that government number crunching - even conservative number crunching - is not the answer to our nation's problems."

Of course he's underscoring an inherent irony in conservatism - those politicians who dislike government put all their time and effort and will and money into becoming part of the government, so they can do away with much of it.

Inevitably, they rather like being part of it, and stick around for years trying to slim down something they disapprove of, fanatical dieters insisting on eating at the best restaurants so they can better control the portion sizes.

It is an irony, in that one can chuckle about it, but it is not a paradox. It is, I would have thought, pretty essential for conservatives who want to control government spending to have control of that government.

His argument seems to be that Republicans should spend their time encouraging the "real economy" and leaving it up to the states to spend what little public money he deems necessary.

Maybe this is merely a coded attack on those Republicans in the House of Representatives, who seem to think they won the election.

If he is identifying them as a major part of the party's image problem, he is right, but he's not pointing a way out of their complex dilemma - the choice between being quislings to faithful Republicans or obstructionists in the mind of most Americans.

So an "A" for effort, grabbing headlines, and identifying the obvious, but a "C" for a rather confused economic approach, which looks more like a desire to say something jolting than a serious contribution.

I'm looking forward to hearing Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and, even more, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, describe the way ahead.

But Gov Jindal has made a start confronting his shocked, and rather complacent, party.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

An ending - and a beginning

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  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    Thankfully there are more than just two parties. If one felt the Republicans had become "stupid" but was not left-leaning there is always the Libertarian party. If someone else decided the Democrats only paid lip service to the environment, there is always the Green party. In the US, one can vote for what they actually believe in rather than what they are told to believe in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    312 Stupid as Gore and Hart were, my vote for stupidest goes to President Wilson as the worst ever.Not only was he first in over a century to ignore Washington's warning to stay out of military alliances and foreign affairs especially European intrigues but his advocacy of Prohibition led directly to the Sicilian Mafia getting a permanent foothold in the US.We've paid for those mistakes ever since

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    In Canada, our governing Conservative Party often clearly shows that the Republicans are their ideal. However, as of last year, we have finally broken the 2-party system myth - why aren't other parties coming more to the fore in the US, given that the choice now seems to be between Stupid and Ahem-well-not-stupid-but-not-doing-nearly-enough?

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.


    Obama "least qualified" ??

    so Johnson, G W Bush, Nixon, Ford were better?

    Can we go as far back as Hoover?

    general rule is not to feed trolls, but sometimes its fun to watch feeding time ...

    no aggro here, I've decided to treat all your comments as humour, keep it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    The very definition of STUPID lies at the 1 minute and 50 second (1:50) point of the following video. Educate yourselves.

  • Comment number 313.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    309. sieuarlu

    SERIOUSLY? Those two get your vote for two stupidest? REALLY?!?! Wow....

    Enough said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    ref #308

    You would think after being relected that Obama supporters would stipop throwing out the race card.

    Obama is opposed because he is wrong on most domestic issues and really is the least qualified President we have had in modern American history

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    Both parties say dumb things. America has become a country of urban ruling rural, producers vs. consumers. Unfortunately their are more consumers (no idea how things are produced) and they vote to support the consumers via government give away and penalties against producers. Eventually the producers will decide that it's not worth the effort and become consumers and all heck will break loose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Two of the stupidest people in American politics were Al Gore and Gary Hart. Guess which party they belonged to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.


    Well said, but how will the Democrats EVER accomplish anything for the masses when every bill introduced by the Obama Administration is shot down on the basis of his skin color & not on the merit of the actual legislation? The Republicans won't even read the bills!

    Perfect example is Mitch McConnell's statement that "first order of business is to ensure BO is a 1-term president".

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    301 & 303
    Abraham Lincoln is rolling over in his grave. The Democrats need to capitalize on this moment in time and get something done that will help the majority, the problem is Congress, the Electoral College, and our failing education system--all leads to apathy. Then people wake up one day unemployed, and blame immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    302 ‘opinions opinions’ indeed. You're entitled to yours even when-eg that Reps never lie-they’re blatantly untrue.

    I'm not particularly a fan of de Valera or his party. If anyone but you can see his relevance to today’s Rep party I shall be surprised. And your comparing him to a Nazi collaborator is bizarre

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    Whether the Republicans are stupid or intelligent isn't the question. The question is, HOW stupid are they? Hopefully, they'll push themselvses into obsolecence and, if the world is lucky, extinction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    It's very clear (to intelligent people at least) that the Republican party, like at no other time in our history, has splintered into many very distinct groups, each with their own agenda. How in the world do Republicans really think that their party will ever have any sort of meaning or stability? When there is three-way, in-fighting within the party, how can they win, OR LEAD for that matter?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Presently in the US being a Conservative means to be a social / eccnomic bully..Claiming that GOD drives there actions .In reality the god they worship is just there Bull of Heaven and not the all wise Deity of scripture.

    Remember self labeling does not matter, it is there behavior and actions that counts. Conservatives do not want to govern, they want to dictate and bully . Full Stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    "The relevance [of de Valera's dodgy politics] to whether the Reps are stupid escapes me."

    Opinions, opinions. De Valera was - in my view - stupid in a sinister way, like Father Tiso of Slovakia.

    The Republicans' Jesus freakery & religion-soaked politics, however sincerely believed, are morally suspect & treat "others" as enemies. Dimness indeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    It might be a large coincidence, but people who gravitate toward the Republicans tend NOT to be informed, culturally progressive, or globally-minded. Republicans also have to own up to why they're the overwhelmingly favoured party of racists, sexists, homophobes, war-mongers, and Christian fundamentalists. The Dems are no angels, but they seem to have working brains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    It is not so much that Republicans say stupid stuff - that is clear.
    What is more clear is that when Democrats say stupid stuff it is not media hot.
    Example - "I have been to 57 states" - hardly made the media - if GWB had said that it would have been around the world in seconds.

    Another example "you have to pass the bill to see what is in it"

  • Comment number 299.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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