An Armchair Psychologist Analyzes Bobby Jindal

What's Eating Bobby Jindal?

What’s Eating Bobby Jindal?

This post was originally published on PE+CO: Thoughts on Education, Politics & Life In New Orleans

On Wednesday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal opened a new front in his one-man war on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Jindal filed a lawsuit [see complaint below] in federal court that accuses the U.S. Department of Education of violating the Tenth Amendment by essentially forcing states to adopt the standards. Yesterday’s lawsuit comes just one week after a Louisiana judge issued an injunction lifting the Jindal Administration’s suspension of the state’s contracts for the Common Core-aligned PARCC test.

Jindal’s latest move against CCSS raises two important questions:

Q1: Is Bobby Jindal unaware that Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska never adopted Common Core?

Admittedly, it’s hard to believe Jindal doesn’t know that Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska originally opted out of CCSS, especially since he’s spending so much political capital on the issue. On the other hand, since this fact totally undermines Jindal’s argument that CCSS was forced on states, perhaps it’s worth asking.

Jindal's argument is undermined by the fact Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska never adopted CCSS.

Jindal’s argument is undermined by the fact Virginia, Texas, Nebraska and Alaska never adopted CCSS (FYI: Minnesota only adopted the English standards, not math).

Q2: Is deep-seated insecurity driving Jindal’s fight against Common Core?

OK, this one’s a bit “out there,” so bear with me while I explain…

It’s no secret that Bobby Jindal’s sudden shift from CCSS supporter to opponent is aimed at bolstering his standing among conservatives ahead of the GOP presidential primaries. Given his political aspirations, once Tea Partiers revealed Common Core was a socialist plot to brainwash America’s children, it was only a matter of time before Jindal started to backpedal on the standards. Thus when Jindal threw his support behind several anti-CCSS proposals during this year’s legislative session, it wasn’t much of a surprise. Rather, it was assumed that once these bills were rejected by lawmakers, Jindal would walk away, claim he took a principled stand against Common Core, and leave it at that.

So why hasn’t he dropped it and moved on? Why has Jindal instead attempted to unilaterally kill Common Core and PARCC – in defiance of the legislature and state board – until his effort was sidelined in court last week? In addition, why is he now launching an entirely new court battle over CCSS that will accomplish little more than throwing taxpayers’ money out the window? As Bellwether’s Anne Hyslop noted in an interview with Politico, “Gov. Jindal has made his point 10 times over that he is no fan of Common Core, but at this point, he isn’t breaking any new ground.”

Bobby Jindal holds press conference to announce he's going to overboard with this Common Core thing.

Bobby Jindal holds press conference to announce he’s going to overboard with this Common Core thing.

Anne’s right: from a strategic standpoint, Jindal’s refusal to yield on Common Core doesn’t make logical sense. As much as one hates to admit it, Jindal is obviously an intelligent person (see: Brown, Rhodes, two-terms, etc.). He must know that his opposition to Common Core isn’t going to be the deciding factor that propels him to the top of the GOP ticket. Moreover, by the time primaries roll around, it’s doubtful CCSS will be the hot-button issue it is today, so it’s unclear how much real mileage Jindal can gain from it. In short, Common Core doesn’t seem like a hill worth dying on, and yet Jindal is charging up the slope in a full frontal assault on CCSS.

On the other hand, this stubborn fight against CCSS fits a regrettable pattern of behavior Jindal has exhibited over the years; specifically, his propensity for going overboard with ill-advised political stunts. Whether he’s mocking volcano monitoring in his response to the State of the Union, chastising his own party for bedwetting and navelgazing, or killing a feel-good bipartisan vibe on the White House lawn, time and again we’ve seen Jindal jettison self-restraint in an attempt to steal the spotlight, only to have it blow up in his face. It’s as if Jindal is driven by a desperate need to keep proving himself by being more critical, more outspoken, and more extreme than anyone else, and in the process, he loses sight of the big picture.1

 

While it’s possible that Jindal’s Common Core battle is winning over converts on the far right, it’s also coming at the expense of his potential supporters in the broad middle, who see Jindal’s actions for what they are: politically-motivated and several steps too far. Furthermore, it isn’t helping his already dismal approval ratings in Louisiana (currently polling around 30%), where folks just want Jindal to give it a rest, so public schools can get on with job of educating kids.

As long-time political journalist and commentator Elizabeth Drew once noted, “Feel is very, very important in politics, especially in a president.” Jindal’s latest salvo against Common Core makes it painfully clear that he’s lost his sense of touch.



  1. Interesting Freudian aside: During his press conference announcing his plan to pull out of Common Core and PARCC, he said: “Personally speaking, when my brother and I would bring home grades of 95%, my dad would always ask, ‘What happened to the other 5%?’” Translation: Daddy was never thought I was good enough? 

Bobby Jindal: The Delusional Dictator of Louisiana

With his attempt to unilaterally kill Common Core, Bobby Jindal seems to be channeling the authoritarian streak of Huey Long, who also had delusions of becoming President.

With his attempt to unilaterally kill Common Core, Bobby Jindal seems to be channeling the authoritarian streak of Huey Long, who also had delusions of becoming President.

While the inimitable Huey P. Long has gone down in history as “The Kingfish,” to his political opponents he was known by another, less flattering name, “The Dictator of Louisiana,” a reference to his unrelenting pursuit of power as governor, and subsequently as a United States Senator. Now, 80 years later, it may be time to revive that moniker, as Governor Bobby Jindal seems to be channeling Long’s authoritarian streak.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Jindal announced his plan to jettison the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and block the adoption of the CCSS-aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests that students in grades 3 through 8 are scheduled to take this coming school year.

Jindal’s plan involves several lines of attack on Common Core. To start, the Governor issued an executive order requiring the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) to conduct a competitive bidding process for the state’s standardized tests, which he believes will preclude LDOE from administering PARCC next year as planned. Jindal also issued an executive order suspending rules adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) last month approving the administration of the PARCC exams in the 2014-15 school year. Finally, the Governor sent letters to PARCC notifying the organization that Louisiana is withdrawing from the testing consortium, as well as to the Council for Chief State School Officers and the National Governor’s Association informing them that Louisiana is no longer participating in Common Core.

For months, Jindal has been threatening to act unilaterally to derail CCSS and PARCC if the legislature failed to do so on its own. Yet while a handful of Tea Party-aligned anti-CCSS lawmakers made headlines by filing dozens of bills seeking to undermine Common Core, every single one of their proposals went down in defeat during the recently-concluded legislative session.

While a handful of Tea Party-aligned anti-CCSS lawmakers filed dozens of bills seeking to undermine Common Core, every single one of their proposals went down in defeat. From top left: (from top left): Rep. Brett Geymann, Rep. Cameron Henry, Rep. Jim Morris, Rep. Bob Hensgens, Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, Rep. J. Rogers Pope, Rep. Barry Ivey, and Rep. Kenny Havard.

While a handful of Tea Party-aligned anti-CCSS lawmakers filed dozens of bills seeking to undermine Common Core, every single one of their proposals went down in defeat. From top left: Rep. Brett Geymann, Rep. Cameron Henry, Rep. Jim Morris, Rep. Bob Hensgens, Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, Rep. J. Rogers Pope, Rep. Barry Ivey, and Rep. Kenny Havard.

In April, representatives from a broad coalition of Louisiana’s leading business, civic, and education organizations came out in force to defeat two anti-CCSS proposals, House Bills 381 and 558. House Bill 381, sponsored by Rep. Brett Geymann and Rep. J. Rogers Pope, sought to suspend the implementation of CCSS while a 30-person commission developed new state standards and their accompanying tests over the next two years. House Bill 558, filed by Rep. Cameron Henry and Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, would have prohibited the administration of the Common Core-aligned PARCC exams. Although though Governor Jindal surprised everyone by submitting “green cards” in support of the measures, the House Education Committee voted 12-7 to kill both bills.

Furthermore, the House Appropriations Committee voted down House Bill 380, a backhanded attempt to throttle the adoption of CCSS by requiring LDOE to get legislative approval before spending state funds on “any assessment proposed or developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or any other equivalent national group.”

As The Advocate noted following the conclusion of the legislative session:

“When it comes to the controversial Common Core standards, we think the Legislature said a lot by what it did not do. The question is whether Gov. Bobby Jindal is listening.”

Given his announcement on Wednesday, apparently Bobby Jindal wasn’t listening and that’s probably because he’s preoccupied with his all-but-certain Presidential run in 2016. It’s been clear for months that Jindal’s focus has shifted from his responsibilities as Governor to his preparations for a national election campaign. When not writing goofy opinion pieces for USA Today, the New York Post, or the National Review, Jindal has spent much of the past year out-of-state, especially in early primary battlegrounds like Iowa. As a result, his approval rating among Louisiana voters has plummeted to a dismal 35%, making him one of the least popular governors in the country.1

Jindal had been a staunch advocate for Common Core ever since Louisiana committed to the standards in 2010; in fact, Jindal was featured in a pro-Common Core video released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in April. Thus his sudden reversal on CCSS is clearly aimed at wooing the right-wing voters who turnout for Republican primaries, especially those Tea Party voters who can decide a race, as Eric Cantor’s recent defeat so vividly illustrated.

Considering his presidential aspirations, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Jindal changed his position on Common Core, but his attempt to circumvent the legislature and kill CCSS – in effect, by decree – represents a new low even by the seen-it-all standards of Louisiana politics. (Although, in another sense, it’s just the latest example of Jindal’s propensity for going overboard with ill-advised, politically-damaging stunts, such as bashing President Obama on the White House lawn or chastising his own party for “bedwetting” and “navel gazing.”)

Jindal’s attempt to circumvent the legislature and kill CCSS in effect, by decree represents a new low even by the seen-it-all standards of Louisiana politics.

Jindal’s attempt to circumvent the legislature and kill CCSS – in effect, by decree – represents a new low even by the seen-it-all standards of Louisiana politics.

Fortunately, Jindal’s attempt to side-step the democratic process has run into fierce resistance. Almost immediately following Jindal’s press conference, LDOE and BESE issued a press release entitled, “State To Continue Implementing Common Core, PARCC” in which BESE President Chas Roemer stated:

“Four years ago, our board committed to measuring learning in comparison with states across the country, and two years ago the Legislature put this plan into the law. BESE is continuing to implement that law.”

State Superintendent John White didn’t pull any punches in responding to Jindal’s announcement either, telling reporters:

“The state will continue to implement the Common Core Standards …this is a long term plan we have been working on for four years and committed to another 10 years of implementation. We are not willing to subject our children to last-minute changes to throw our system into educational chaos.”

BESE President Chas Roemer (left) and State Superintendent John White have refused to waver on Common Core and PARCC.

BESE President Chas Roemer (left) and State Superintendent John White have refused to waver on Common Core and PARCC.

Roemer and White’s sentiments were echoed by school district officials across the state, such as Michelle Blouin-Williams, Chief Academic Officer in Jefferson Parish – Louisiana’s largest school system – who stated:

“We are aligned with the Louisiana Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, who have affirmed that we are to continue implementing CCSS and transitioning to PARCC in the 2014-15 school year as planned. The Jefferson Parish Public School System will continue to invest in the success of our students and teachers by ensuring high expectations for all.”

Now that the long-smoldering debate over Common Core has erupted into an all-out civil war, the two sides are likely headed for court. As both Roemer and White point out, according to the MOU signed with PARCC in 2010, Jindal doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally pull out of the consortium. In addition, as former BESE member Leslie Jacobs noted in a review of the legal questions involved, while the Governor does have the power to issue executive orders in the event of an emergency,

“…it is hard to argue that an issue that has been publicly discussed and vetted for 4 years and on which there were numerous bills debated this session is now an ‘emergency’ giving the governor this power.”

Former BESE member Leslie Jacobs disputed the legality of Jindal's executive orders saying, "“…it is hard to argue that an issue that has been publicly discussed and vetted for 4 years and on which there were numerous bills debated this session is now an ‘emergency’ giving the governor this power.”

Former BESE member Leslie Jacobs disputed the legality of Jindal’s executive orders saying, “…it is hard to argue that an issue that has been publicly discussed and vetted for 4 years and on which there were numerous bills debated this session is now an ‘emergency’ giving the governor this power.”

Regardless of the outcome in court, Bobby Jindal’s actions have – for now, at least – thrown Louisiana’s “public education system into a state of confusion.” With the start of a new school year only eight weeks away, Jindal is leaving the state’s teachers and students in the lurch. Instead, as an editorial in the Times-Picayune pointedly stated:

“Gov. Bobby Jindal went against the wishes of the Legislature, the state education superintendent, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, dozens of business and civic groups and common sense this week…as he often does these days, the governor decided his political interests were more important.”

While he may aspire to appear presidential, his actions are closer to dictatorial and only diminish his already-remote chances of becoming President. Apparently, that’s a lesson Bobby Jindal insists on learning the hard way.


Click here to call on your legislators to urge Bobby Jindal to stop his attack on Common Core

Post-Script, 06/19/14: The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which is “considered the most powerful lobby in Louisiana,” released a pro-Common Core video today in response to Bobby Jindal’s attempt to ditch CCSS. The video features LABI President Stephen Waguespack, who formerly served as Governor Jindal’s Chief of Staff:


  1. As noted by The Daily Beast, “Should Jindal run, and win the nomination, he could be the first nominee for either party to lose his home state in the primary.”