John McCain is beginning the process of selecting a running mate. My long time friend Steve, when I wrote an article several months ago about McCain selecting John Kasich as a running mate, thought instead that I might have chosen Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana. I think Steve has a point.
Bobby has a number of things going for him, many of which no one else in America has. He is younger - ten years younger - than Barack Obama (Bobby will turn thirty-seven in June.) Jindal is more energetic, more articulate, more likeable and more inspiring than Obama (and Obama ranks high in each of those areas.) Because the last major event before the campaign begins after Labor Day will be the selection of the Republican vice presidential nominee, all of this charisma, youth and charm could be the focus of news when the campaign began in earnest. His beautiful wife and adorable son will also create nothing but positive vibes.
Bobby Jindal, like Barack Obama, was born into a different faith (in Bobby's case, Hinduism) and then converted to Christianity. This also would be an interesting story that would grab the attention of many Americans. Jindal, however, could do a much better job of explaining his Christian faith than Barack Obama - he could, for example, point out that as a brown immigrant who faced discrimination, he chose a church that embraced the broad, compassionate, tolerant side of Christianity.
Jindal is brown, and "brown" could appeal to Hispanic voters, Middle Eastern voters, Native American voters and other voters who are not black or white but brown. Bobby Jindal could easily be the first "person of color" on a presidential ticket who actually won national office. Those brown voters who Republicans can actually win in November are not black voters, who have long since been re-enslaved by their Democrat overlords. These voters are not monolithic and they could be responsive to a non-European, brown candidate.
Bobby is also Asian. American minorities from Korean to Syria and from Vietnam to Turkey and from Japan to Iraq are Asians. No political party has ever nominated an Asian. The Democrats will not do that in 2008. Having the first Asian on a presidential ticket and, likely later, the first Asian to sit in the White House would present a broad appeal across many lines that Democrats could match only by their thin general support for "minorities." Those voters could swing many close states.
Bobby Jindal has a distinguished career - already. He has served as president of the Louisiana University system, as an executive in state government, as the principal policy advisor for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, as a congressman, and now as governor. Jindal is absolutely brilliant, much smarter than anyone else who would be on either party's ticket, and he explains himself well. He would run rings around any Democrat running mate in vice presidential debates. Because McCain is old, a young and very capable vice president could reassure voters unsure of McCain's health.
On top of all this, the selection of Bobby Jindal would be as clear an olive branch to social conservatives as anyone could make. Jindal is very conservative, especially on social issues, but he presents those principled decisions in such a friendly and thoughtful way that only those who wish to be put off by it are thusly. Indeed, Jindal is so attractive in so many ways that his candidacy might well trick national Democrats to engage in the sort of racial and religious bigotry that Louisiana Democrats did when he ran for Governor.
Jindal opens up a real future for Republicans and for America. If McCain runs for just one term, Jindal would be able to unify Republicans easily in 2012 and run a campaign of youthful energy combined with experience. He would also be enormously helpful in linking the two largest democracies on Earth - India and America - and also in presenting a very different face of America around the world.
Are there any downsides to having Bobby Jindal on the ticket? None that I can see. He would be a surprise, a very pleasant surprise, to the Republican Party and to America. Virtually everyone agrees that Bobby Jindal has a huge place in the future of the Republican Party. Now, while Republicans have thrashed about even to find a presidential candidate we really like, why not pick as vice president someone everyone likes? Why not pick Bobby Jindal?