Times Oddly Underwhelmed by Victory of Indian-American in Louisiana

Could it be because Louisiana Governor-Elect Bobby Jindal is a conservative, religious Republican?

Young Indian-American House member Bobby Jindal won the governorship of Louisiana, a state notorious for its political gumbo of gothic and good-old-boy. Such an achievement would ordinarily be celebrated as the opening of a new civil rights frontier in the P.C. pages of the Times. But perhaps because Jindal is a conservative Republican, Southern-based reporter Adam Nossiter's Sunday newsaccount was rather measured and underwhelming.

Nossiter hinted that Jindal's victorywasn't a true racial breakthrough because blacks didn't vote for him.

"The ascendancy of the Brown- and Oxford-educated Mr. Jindal, an unabashed policy wonk who has produced a stream of multipoint plans, is likely to be regarded as a racial breakthrough of sorts in this once-segregated state. Still, it is one with qualifiers attached.

"For one thing, he is by now a familiar figure in Louisiana, having made a strong run for the governorship in 2003, though losing to Ms. Blanco. Before that he had held a series of high-profile administrative jobs, including state health secretary at the age of 24, when he earned a reputation for efficiency - critics said cold-bloodedness - for slashing a bloated budget, cutting jobs and lowering reimbursements to doctors.

"For another, he did not have the support of a majority of the state's blacks, about a third of the population, who vote Democratic.

"Yet Mr. Jindal, with his decisive victory on Saturday, appears to have overcome a significant racial hurdle that blocked him in 2003, according to analysts: race-based opposition in the deeply conservative northern and eastern parishes of Louisiana that once supported the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

"A born-again Roman Catholic, Mr. Jindal made a particular campaign target of these areas, visiting them frequently and bringing his brand of devout Christianity to their rural churches. His social-conservative message - teaching 'intelligent design' as an alternative to evolution in public schools, a total ban on abortion, repealing hate-crimes laws - would have been welcome in these areas.

"Mr. Jindal campaigned as a cautious reformer, promising a more ethical government, for example, with greater transparency from lobbyists and legislators. His extensive résumé helped him project an image of competence, as did his detailed if conventional policy prescriptions - both evidently appealing to voters here weary of missteps in government since Hurricane Katrina.

"But he faces significant challenges. He takes over what is now the nation's poorest, most uneducated and most unhealthy state, by a number of important measures.

Cleaning up the Capitol in Baton Rouge, which Mr. Jindal has promised to make his first order of business, is unlikely to be regarded as a top priority, as it hardly has been in the past, by a Legislature jealous of its perquisites.

"Mr. Jindal has promised to focus resources on the state's ports, roads and research universities, which have received little state investment. But again, parochial interests and factionalism in a state with strong regional and ethnic divisions often work against these broader initiatives at the Capitol.

"And Mr. Jindal, as a fiscal conservative, has had much to say about what he terms 'out-of-control spending' but little about a regressive tax structure that relies heavily on sales taxes."

On MRC's NewsBusters blog, Ken Shepherd tackled what the Times left out regarding the religious angle of Jindal's triumph.