Gov. Jindal, the CEO of a state in the deep South, not to mention a state in which 40 percent once voted for Klan leader David Duke, appears uncomfortable with his own racial and ethnic identity. Touted as the Republican Obama, Jindal felt it necessary to disclose his birth certificate to prove his citizenship. The birther movement in Jindal’s party has used the concept of a citizenship test to alienate and hold in suspicion President Obama and other Americans of color. Further, Jindal changed his Indian name as a child, and converted from Hinduism to Christianity.
Critics point to his support for ALEC-sponsored education reform, which is turning Louisiana’s public schools into the nation’s most privatized system — with an extensive voucher program that defunds public schools and ultimately hurts the poor, black and brown students it purports to help. ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, came under fire earlier this year for its support of stand your ground laws and voter ID legislation that civil rights advocates say will disenfranchise millions of voters of color.
Last year, Jindal was accused of discriminating against minority students for the sake of saving some money when he unveiled a plan to merge historically black Southern University with the predominantly white University of New Orleans.
In addition, Jindal praised Harry Lee, the sheriff of Jefferson Parish, and a Chinese-American lawman accused of a pattern of racial profiling against blacks in the predominantly white parish.
Romney’s pick of a running mate comes at a time when the Republicans’ minority outreach efforts face an uphill battle even within the party. Coming off the heels of a decidedly hard right GOP primary season, Romney may have further pandered to the Republican base when his rebuke of Obamacare earned him jeers at the recent NAACP convention in Houston. Yet, certainly this could not have improved his standing among blacks and Latinos, or moderate independent swing voters who may be turned off by a harsh stance regarding minorities. Moreover, perceived Republican racial insensitivity, and party orthodoxy on voter ID, immigration and other issues are not helping, particularly in the general election when candidates are expected to move to the center and broaden their appeal.
According to a recent Pew poll, Obama leads Romney 50-43 percent nationwide. And while Obama is trailing Romney among whites 40-54 percent, the president leads 91-4 percent among blacks, and 65-25 among Latinos. Perhaps no choice of GOP running mate could improve those odds, and maybe that is not the point. Nevertheless, whether Romney opts for a plain vanilla running mate, or chooses a darker shade of pale, that could make a strong statement in itself.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove