Yessiree bob, ‘been an interesting week or so in the Jindal camp, we can bet. ‘Next thing we know, our governor and his political hitmen will be threatening a couple of pollsters with … uh, well … oops, they don’t work or live here do they? So, he can’t give them a gubernatorial pardon, or take away their committee chairmanships or living quarters, or have their family members fired from their state jobs. Maybe Jindal’s boys will just threaten these out-of-staters with loss of access to the guv when he becomes President Jindal.
For this to make better sense, let me recommend to you an article today by the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Marsha Shuler. It’s a rundown on a “Jindal sighting” – that’s what the media calls it anytime our governor deigns to answer or or two questions, which happens about as often as Troy Landry gets lost in the swamps around Pierre Part.
Make no mistake about it, and you can take this from a reformed pollster who has delivered good and bad poll numbers to many an elected official or wannabe: bad poll numbers – regardless of who the pollster is, especially if the numbers make it to the public – are never … ever … ever … peaceably, much less constructively, received. We can only imagine, therefore, what this has been like for our governor who (1) has never had a negative approval rating, and (2) was delivered his first set of them on the way to another display of power, i.e., the upcoming legislative session where he intends to gain approval of his “revenue neutral” tax-swap plan while simultaneously cutting another $1.3 billion in next-year state spending.
As if the generally bad news isn’t bad enough for Governor Jindal, the worst and most recent of these stunningly bad numbers – a favorable job rating of only 37% – by Public Policy Polling (PPP) is, to boot, corroboration of an earlier poll by Voter / Consumer Research commissioned by the Louisiana Medical Society. In the political arts textbook, the chapter entitled “How to Trash Poll Numbers We Don’t Like,” the rule is to attack such numbers as done by the (partisan) other side, or done by an untested pollster, or done during the wrong moon phase, etc. In this case, the bad news is picked up in both polls, run over a three-week period, one commissioned here in Louisiana and one presumably in D. C. Thus, the governor dismisses the scientific evidence of his downward spiraling voter approval with a lame joke that the only poll he cares about is college football’s B.C.S. poll. Yep, textbook stuff.
The governor’s real response to the news is very important and instructive: he submitted to a half-dozen questions from the media for the first time in four months, albeit it an “availability” tagged onto the end of an event for couples married longer than 70 years. (May the record show I did not make up that last bit. In Louisiana, a reporter takes what she or he can get.) In other words, bad poll numbers for a politician executive are almost always the opposite – good – for those he or she routinely ignores. The “Voters are sheep, and I’ll shear ’em when I please” thing doesn’t work when a couple of million of them turn to maul the shearer. We will next see if Jindal cares. If so, he and his will need to act as necessary to establish a bottom in the decline, then a longer haul to reverse the damage. Few second-termers pull this off, especially, it would seem, one who has no discernible intention to stay here.
Some facts are simply that, facts. Even Jindal’s political dark artists cannot hyperspin into nothingness the fact that he and they are completely sideways with state employees and health care recipients and higher education supporters and K-12 public education supporters and family members of hospice care recipients and good government types and state retirees and all the other groups he has angered. Thus, Team Jindal may well respond with a poll of their own in the near future to “prove” these other poll numbers are bogus. They may well get key contributors – falsely identified as independent – to hire a pollster directly, strongly akin to the way they generate so-called news stories by first leasing the writers with gifts from official government cupboards.
The good news for the governor is that his control of the state legislature may well prove bullet-proof enough to continue giving him whatever he wants. The distance Jindal has run from his “ethics gold standard” shakedown in his first act as governor in 2008, then all the way to here, perfectly matches the distance strong majorities in both legislative chambers have run alongside him. Only Louisiana’s district courts have been able – and maybe they only temporarily – to push back against this openly rigged system of Louisiana governance by only one branch.
Then There Are Our Potentially Wayward Legislators in Those Secret Meetings
Personally, I am thankful the national media is focused on Jindal’s poll numbers. My fear is that they will tell the nation that when our governor stiffs the public and media by sneaking meetings with legislators to explain his tax-swap plan, he “makes” our legislators – supposedly an independent branch of government – give back any printed materials he has handed out to them (check out the last few paragraphs of Tyler Bridges’ article in The Lens).
Louisiana exists in an age when legislators describe intimidation by the presence of State Police in meetings with Jindal, resulting in trips to paper shredders with him before they are permitted to leave.
I don’t know if any legislators are embarrassed that we know they are so unbelievably frightened and intimidated by this man, but I know I am … embarrassed for them, and for the rest of us.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited or accepted for this work. This work is protected, and no other use of it is permitted without the written consent of Mr. Stonecipher.