Before conservative policy wonks can win any policy victories, they'll need to overhaul the Republican Party. For an idea of what that might look like, and the challenges any transformation will entail, they should look to one of the party's wonkiest politicians, Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Last week, as President Obama touted the 7.1 million private plan sign-ups in Obamacare's first open enrollment period, Jindal gave the world a glimpse at what the outlines of a Republican alternative might look like. Not only would the plan repeal Obamacare, it would, among other things, overhaul the tax code to remove the tax advantage for employer-sponsored health plans, offer incentives to states to protect access for individuals with preexisting health conditions, block grant Medicaid, expand health savings accounts, and create a $100 billion innovation fund for states experimenting with policies to bring down the cost of health care.
But just as important as the particulars was the simple fact that Jindal was offering something that many Obamacare proponents, including the president, had said did not exist: a conservative health care policy. At the same time, Jindal's plan was a challenge to his fellow Republicans to take health policy more seriously, to reckon with the tradeoffs it requires, and to begin the process of unifying around an alternative. It was a declaration, of sorts, that Republicans and the right could—and should—be wonky and policy focused too.