Conservatism’s cool quaternity: Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman Jr.

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It’s different from the Tea Party, although three of these — Haley, Jindal and Perry — have serious Tea Party chops. Tea Party, you might say, is not really avant garde but more of a Republican “underground.” There is something tempting, dark and seditious to it, which you sense in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R).

And in Paul, you sense something even conspicuously amateur, which is how it is in the “underground.” They are gatekeepers. They form a “rite of entry” to a new era. Then it’s time to move ahead. When they fail in their attempt to shut down the government this fall, the press will turn instead to these cool, ascending, optimistic, conservative governors: Haley, Jindal, Huntsman and Perry. Any one of them would be more interesting to be stuck in an elevator with than Cruz or Paul.

Probably Jack Kennedy, and his stunning, literate and engaging wife, Jackie, was the first cool president. At first, Obama was as cool as Miles Davis, who invented “cool.” Now, in the twilight of his unpresidency, it fades. I predict our next president will be from the cool conservative quaternity: Haley, Jindal, Perry or Huntsman.

An article in The New York Times this past weekend explains how France lost its cool, and the same could be said for liberal America: “A proud nation [France] ponders how to halt its slow decline.” It  is a victim of its century-long success. Now it spends its energies in holding on and preserving a failing past; a condition usually thought to curse conservatives. And this in the extreme case is the dangerous political model of the European nostalgico and the sociopathic movements early on as Germany and Italy attempted to rise again a dead age. 

But Haley, Jindal, Perry and Huntsman have something beneath the cool: They are or have been elite quarterbacks of important and prosperous states. And this should be the key to presidential politics. Haley and Jindal have virtually changed the culture of the South. Perry brought Texas to its best moment since the Alamo.

Cool comes from an easy and intuitive confidence in going forward. Jack Kennedy had it because he could accurately sense the future and time was on his side. But conservatives today have all the thinking: states rights, regional culture, sound money, constitutional government and declawing the feds. As governors, Haley, Jindal and Perry have advanced this thinking, while liberals have turned to the past.

But conservatives are still stuck in a rut: Call it the Bob Dole syndrome. (Or the McCain/Graham syndrome.) And the big New York money and influence will continue with those Proustians who endlessly repeat and remember things past. The preposterously named “moral majority” will persist and Kissinger will continue to advance his Nixon-era line, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and just anybody named Bush.

But the era is over, and the world, with increasing anxiety, awaits the turning.