The Governor of Louisiana called me last night. I was just about to doze off when the phone rang. And can you believe it? He wanted my advice on how to deal with his plummeting poll numbers and his growing list of governing and political problems. The conversation went something like this.
“Jim, Bobby Jindal here. You’ve been pretty rough on me in your weekly columns and on your syndicated radio show. You know I’m a regular reader and I listen to you all the time, at least when I’m in the state. You’ve really been on my case lately. So I’m calling and asking you, man to man, what advice you would give me? What should I do? It seems like every week, some new list is released showing Louisiana at the bottom. And my poll numbers are in the tank. Man, I could really use some guidance.”
I was, of course, flattered that the Governor wanted my advice. So I thought for a moment -- where to begin? He certainly has major problems to address. On virtually every list released in the past year, Louisiana is ranked either at, or close to the bottom for having a poor business climate, educational levels that lag far behind national averages, highest insurance rates, low rankings by the Center for Public Integrity, obstructing public access to information, and at the bottom of the barrel for overall health.
And here’s another slap in the face. Jindal just completed a term as Chairman of the National Governor’s Association. And how did Louisiana fare in the governors’ non-partisan sub group’s ranking for overall quality of life called the “Camelot Index?” Dead last!
So what would I recommend that the governor do right now -- something tangible, something that would yield immediate results? Something that would show the average guy that something is being done. After giving it some thought, I had one simple solution. “Governor, take the afternoon off and rent a video.”
“What? Voters are saying my state is under siege, and you tell me I should watch a movie? Come on, Jim!”
“That’s right, Bobby. Not just any movie. I want you to rent ‘City Hall,’ starring Al Pacino.”
“Never heard of it.” I wasn’t surprised.
“Trust me on this, Bobby. Pacino plays the part of the Mayor of New York, and the city faces a whole litany of problems, including a major crime wave. Al says enough is enough. He becomes a PVLF -- a positive, visible, local force. And he’s everywhere. No, he’s not criss-crossing the country speaking to political groups, Bobby. But he’s back home in his state. When a murder takes place, he’s on the crime scene. When innocent victims are involved, he is preaching at their funerals. He’s walking the streets, in coffee houses, in restaurants, being verbal and visual one on one, and visiting with small groups. Simply letting the people of his city know that he’s in charge, that he cares, that he empathizes with their concerns, and he’s trying to do everything in his power to solve one insurmountable problem after the other.”
“Of course, it’s not quite that simple. But it’s a beginning, Bobby. And get this. That’s exactly how New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is, by the way, the leading Republican candidate for president in 2016, operates. He’s everywhere in New Jersey. Here’s what Christie says about governing: “You gotta show up -- regularly, consistently. And you gotta listen. You can’t always talk at people, you have to listen.”
If you are there and the folks you represent believe you are giving it your best effort, they are going to be much more willing to do their part. And these people you represent can be of tremendous help if you motivate them. You can build grass roots support for your legislative agenda, and you can encourage Louisianans to volunteer, and become involved in numerous community service programs. They’re volunteers for the state, but you can also turn them into volunteers for your own future. You will quickly find out that good government is also good politics.
“Bottom line, Bobby -- stay at home where you were elected. Your challenge is to rally the masses, let them know you are on the job continually and that you are giving your all to improve the state’s quality of life. You can do it, Bobby. You just have to make the commitment.”
“Boy, I really appreciate your advice, Jim. You’ve got me thinking, fired up, and ready to change direction. You’re right, Jim. I can make a difference. I’m their leader. You are going to be amazed at the new approach I’m going to take. Thanks, Jim. And I’ll be listening to on the weekends.”
I hung up the phone, and was satisfied that Bobby Jindal would take up my challenge. I really believe in the PVLF theory. Maybe, just maybe, I had gotten through to him. For a minute, I lay there with a smile of contentment on my face.
And then I woke up from my dream.