Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal last week announced the launch of “America Next,” a policy non-profit he hopes will help rebrand the Republican Party. “Conservatives have failed to articulate and sell … a vision of what conservative policies can accomplish when put into practice,” he says in the organization’s mission statement.
Jindal is pitching the group as a place where conservatives can get together and create tangible “prescriptions” for progress in healthcare, education, and energy. It’s the latest motion for reform within the GOP, whose members have been searching for a “rebranding” ever since President Barack Obama won the 2012 election.
So far, comeback strategies have included courting the Hispanic vote by pushing for immigration reform and challenging Obama’s socioeconomic measures by attempting to defund Obamacare.
But Jindal’s rebranding attempt reflects a more intellectual approach. Instead of winning a new voter demographic or criticizing current policies, he is pushing for victory in what he calls a war of ideas. “Saying ‘no’ is not enough,” he told Politico last week. “There’s a void, and there’s an opportunity to offer specific conservative ideas on the most important issues of the day.”
Jindal, whose parents immigrated to America from India in the 1970s, has been involved in politics since he took an internship with U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery in 1993. He filled a variety of offices over the next 10 years, including serving as President of Louisiana’s University System when he was just 28. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed him Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation. Two years later, after a failed run for the governor’s mansion, he started his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until winning Louisiana’s 2007 gubernatorial election.
Raised Hindu, Jindal became a Christian in high school, converting later to Catholicism in college. “Suddenly, God was tangible,” Jindal wrote in a series of essays for New Oxford Review. “Seeing Christ’s sacrifice convicted me of my sinfulness and my need for a savior. … I asked seriously who was I that my Lord should suffer for my sake.” He holds traditional Judeo-Christian views, opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, and argues that evolution should be taught alongside other perspectives, including Creationism.
So far, it isn’t clear what exactly is next for his infant organization. Jindal currently serves as honorary chairman, and he’s appointed Jill Neunaber, a campaign manager who worked for Mitt Romney, as its executive director. He said fundraising is just getting started. The America Next website only features its mission statement, a donate button, and an email-list sign up. Critics have complained the effort is just one rushed step along Jindal’s path towards a presidential campaign.
Even though he’s widely expected to enter the 2016 presidential race, Jindal hasn’t commented definitely on his long-term political goals, but stressed that America Next isn’t a super PAC and won’t be involved in elections: “This is to get beyond the 30-second ads and bumper stickers.”