Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Huckabee Push from Piyush? Bobby Jindal wins over all

The resounding victory of Piyush "Bobby" Jindal in last week's Louisiana's governor's race should serve as inspiration that one doesn't have to compromise their Christian faith to win an important election. In Saturday's voting, Jindal carried all but four of Louisiana's parishes, becoming, at 36, not only the youngest current governor, but the first Indian-American governor of ANY state, and it couldn't have been done without the help of the Church—not to mention "The Brady Bunch."

Bobby's parents moved from India shortly before his birth, so his mom could study nuclear physics and his dad could work as a civil engineer. At the age of four, the precocious Piyush was already making decisions, insisting that from henceforth, he would be referred to as "Bobby," after the character in the Brady Bunch sitcom. Figuring he was going through a phase, his parents complied with his wish, but Jindal has been known as Bobby ever since—with one slight (if everlasting) modification. At age 18, Bobby, seeing something missing in his native Hindu religion, converted to Roman Catholicism, taking the baptismal name of Robert.

After earning degrees first from Brown and Oxford, his political star rose quickly, becoming head of Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals at age 24, and being named assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by George Bush before he was 30. But, once in Washington, he longed to be back in Louisiana, and returned to run for governor there in 2003. But when Bobby was handily defeated by popular Democrat Kathleen Blanco, the pundits proclaimed the GOP (especially when represented by a dark-skinned Republican) would never regain the governor's seat.

But Jindal remained undaunted. He ran again in 2007, but this time with a new plan. Already an expert on the issues, he decided he must meet the people of Louisiana, even if it meant shaking hands with every last voter. In what one newspaper dubbed his "charm offensive," Jindal crisscrossed the state, leaving no corner store unturned. "In Louisiana, small-town retail politics is very important," Jindal related after the election. "I don't think there's any substitute for staring someone in the eye and listening."

Jindal's strategy worked, for if there was any latent Louisiana prejudice, his honest glance melted it away. By garnering 54 percent of the vote, he not only beat the other eleven contending candidates combined, but won the state without a run-off, a rarity in Louisiana politics. And unlike the Kennedys or Giuliani, he did it without compromising his Catholicism.

"I draw my definition of integrity from my Christian faith," explained Jindal at a recent campaign stop. "I know we live in a pluralist society, but in my faith you give 100 percent of yourself to God."

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Although governor of Louisiana is not exactly president of the United States, Mike Huckabee's supporters (as well as those Christian fence-sitters) should take comfort from the fact that, with hard work and prayer, a man of faith can still be chosen to lead in our country. It was not all that long ago that people predicted a former governor of the small Southern state of Arkansas could never be elected president—and you remember what happened. But now that President Clinton has "left," we must prevent another Clinton from becoming president by supporting a(nother) former Arkansas governor who will always do things "right."