The Jindal of Our Discontent

05/25/2011 01:05 pm ET

Ten years ago, Apple revolutionized the world of personal computer with blueberry iMac. Into a world that had always reflected the beige of manufacturing: Steve Jobs served up a computer that looked more like a VW Beetle than an IBM. It was thrilling to buy something for us: the colored plastic, the computer's shape, the operating system and the way that we were meant to use the computer all reflected a fundamental difference in philosophy. True, the color was the easiest change to identify, but consumers recognized that the whole value proposition was fundamentally different. Apple's competitors did not. They figured that simply changing the color of their beige boxes would make them competitive with the first iMac: they were wrong.

All of this is rather instructive in light of President Obama's Congressional address and the Republican response. He got up in front of Congress and proved that he is made of fundamentally different stuff than his predecessor. He has a different vision of American and is guided by that in confronting the multiple disasters that confront the country. The fact that Obama is black has nothing to do with the solutions that he is proposing.

As obvious as this, the Republicans seem to have missed the point. The Grand Old Party is responding to Obama in the same way that Dell, HP and Compaq did to the iMac. They delivered the same message through a different colored messenger. And just as the computer makers failed to compete against the iMac, Bobby Jindal's message fell on deaf ears. Americans, as the recent polls attest, understand that people should be judged on ideas, not the color or their skin.

That's bad news for Bobby Jindal, whose meteoric rise has reversed trajectory rather abruptly. It's also too bad for America because the Republicans seem to be easy looking for a quick way out of their malaise rather than trying to reinvent, or at least evolve, its ideology into something relevant and useful. There is plenty of room for the Republicans to contribute, compete and assist the national recovery, but first they need to rediscover that there is life beyond a mantra of tax cuts. So long as they pretend to be the party of Jindal but continue to take their cues from Limbaugh, that's never going to happen.