Michael  Steele

As the nation focused on presidential campaigns — who's up in the polls and who's raising the most money — in Louisiana a quiet revolution occurred. The Republican Party, which has had it pretty rough of late, found its footing, in the election of the first Indian American to the office of governor. Governor-elect Bobby Jindal gave Louisianans a fresh and winning message of competency, good governance and high ethical standards. In doing so, he proved the "conventional wisdom" wrong and provided Republicans across this country with a blueprint for success.

Mr. Jindal successfully tapped into the frustration and skepticism that voters have with their government. In a very personal and important way, he made it clear that voters would no longer have to accept corruption and incompetence as government's way of doing business. The foundation of his message focused on restoring the public's trust in its government through policies that freed up capital and locked down corruption. A Jindal administration would be something different.

Throughout his campaign, Mr. Jindal advocated creating jobs by eliminating taxes that prevent job creators from entering the marketplace and expanding their businesses. In addition, he stressed the importance of streamlining Louisiana's regulatory process to make it fair, predictable and transparent. But perhaps what resonated most with voters was his honest acknowledgment of Louisiana's struggle to deal effectively with crime and corruption and his willingness to target the underlying causes of most crimes and to aggressively pursue remedies that will have a long-lasting positive impact. It was his tireless effort to involve the people of Louisiana in making government work for them, to listen to them and to act in their best interest that gave voters confidence in the leadership of Bobby Jindal.

Now, Republicans across the country should take note of the success of the governor-elect and rid themselves of the old playbooks. Now is the time to expand our reach and our message beyond our comfort zone and to more directly engage voters in precincts that we have lost in the past. We cannot fall into the trap of blindly following "national trends" or discounting sections of the electorate because "they won't vote for us." Rather than shying away from formerly less favorable parts of Louisiana, the Jindal campaign scheduled countless personal appearances in these areas. The result was of the 52 parishes Gov. Kathleen Blanco won in 2003, Mr. Jindal led in 49 of them on Election Day. As former House Speaker Tip O'Neill said: "All politics is local." Republicans can win when we take our positive message directly to voters. Mr. Jindal has shown us how.

The personal appearances allowed voters to get to know Mr. Jindal and protected his image against the negative attacks and racist overtures by his opponents and the Louisiana Democratic Party. The voters in Louisiana put race aside. They looked at Mr. Jindal's proven ability to lead and they listened to his message of making Louisiana better — together.

Bobby Jindal is a true American success story. His family came to this country seeking opportunity and found it in Louisiana. And now, Louisiana has found its opportunity with Mr. Jindal as governor. The state has an incoming chief executive who is determined to restore the public's trust in its government and make Louisiana's economy an example that others will soon follow.

As we look to 2008 and beyond, the old rules no longer apply. Thank goodness. Mr. Jindal represents the next generation of Republican leaders who will define a new vision for our cities and our states. They do not fear change but rather embrace it with an understanding of the possibilities of tomorrow. Louisiana saw the possibilities of tomorrow and elected Bobby Jindal governor.


Michael Steele

Michael Steele is a former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland.
 
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