April 5, 2022
In 2006, when Supriya Jindal went into labor unexpectedly, there was hardly enough time to call 911, let alone for an ambulance to arrive. So her husband, then the second Indian American to ever serve in Congress, in the House of Representatives, helped give birth to their third child at home.
Though no doctor, Bobby Jindal notoriously had applied to both Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School, and gained admission to both. Instead of attending either, he became a Rhodes Scholar, studying political science at Oxford. Soon, Jindal would go on to make history again, as the first Indian American governor in the United States. The Louisiana governor, elected twice, would quickly rise the Republican ranks, becoming a vice presidential prospect in 2012. He said he was not interested in the job, only to launch his own presidential bid a few years later, in 2015.
Indian Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with Jindal. In some ways, he is the epitome of the model minority myth: Ivy League alum (Brown University) who graduated early, Rhodes Scholar, a stint at McKinsey, a person of many firsts and seconds. Yet, though he was born to Indian immigrants from Punjab, specifically engineers, Jindal has never entirely embraced his Indian identity — leading to a slew of memes, including viral tweets over that painting that whitefied the melanated Jindal. He once said in an interview that his mother tried to raise him and his brother as “Americans.” When running for president in 2015, he talked about his immigrant roots but said that “immigration without assimilation is invasion.”
For a moment, Jindal appeared to be the future of Republican politics: he was young, diverse, sharp, and hawkish on both foreign policy and the social safety net. But after Donald Trump won in 2016, Jindal seemed to disappear. We now rarely see Jindal in the news unless he’s written an op-ed on healthcare or health policy reform. So where has the Republican wunderkind gone? And what is his legacy?