by Elliott Stonecipher
Honestly, I wondered if I could make it all the way through this skirmish without offering my two-cents worth. I figured the matter of U. S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s residency is a serial ruckus, with nothing much new and of value for me to offer.
That changed this morning when I read a Stephanie Grace column in The Advocate. Don’t get me wrong, though. I am a fan of Ms. Grace’s work. Up here in Louisiana’s north country, we get our Advocate online, and I was pleased today to find two of her pieces.
As I read this one, I thought yet again just how different are the perspectives of many newspaper writers and those of us very – too? – well acquainted with political candidates, especially those who succeed, if that’s what it is, and become elected officials.
In truth, I wish I might still see things as Ms. Grace sees them, but too many years in and around what has become of American politics has permanently closed that pathway for me.
“And while we’re at it, let’s get back to talking about the candidates’ professional choices, not their personal ones. Isn’t that what elections are supposed to be about in the first place?”
Where I studied and learned and perhaps too-much lived, in Politicalville, the answer to Ms. Grace’s question is “No.” It is an elected official’s “personal ones (choices)” which unveil them, not the “professional choices.”
Professional political choices by officials at the Senator’s level are often not choices at all. They are, rather, the stuff of cold calculation, packaged by some the free world’s best marketers. Apparent choices made by these in officialdom usually involve a sizable team of staffers, media consultants, pollsters and other well-paid professional partisans.
On the other hand, the personal choices of a, say, U. S. Senator, are beyond the influence of such confection and illusion. Truly personal choices tell we the people who the person is, to the extent anything tells anyone who a person is. As various of her related, recorded comments going back many years display and demonstrate, it is clear to me that deep within herself, Senator Landrieu is a resident of Washington, D.C., in all the ways that personally matter. She has said so repeatedly, and I believe her.
D.C. Beltway power is known by many to be toxic and addictive, and no well-entrenched power junky – as U. S. Senators must be these days to survive in such a debilitating atmosphere – escapes its damage. The place comes to more or less possess all but the most psychologically and spiritually centered resident officials. Potomac Fever deeply infects its victim, and rarely breaks.
Mary Loretta Landrieu, physically and mentally – personally – long ago left her New Orleans residency. She moved away from us. She then became a legal, real and true resident of Washington, D.C. Soon thereafter, she lost touch with what it is like to live and work and pay taxes and otherwise struggle in and with our unique and sometimes wearing dysfunction.
Was she one of us – a Louisianan – when she was a state representative and our state treasurer? Yes, without a doubt. A Louisianan through and through, here, with us. Now? No, not in ways that count to us.
It is the nature of almost all political power at this level: whether to New Orleans or Naborton, delivering pork or other favors from Capitol Hill requires no delivery apparatus, much less the physical presence of the deliverer.
So, most of us agree. Senator’s legal residency makes a poor political issue these days. Rather, it is a notable symptom of what may disqualify Mary Landrieu to continue as our U. S. Senator. The real illness is that she is no longer able to know and understand the people she was elected to serve nearly two decades past. She best knows and serves all which is D.C.
As many other U. S. Senators, especially those blessed with the personal wealth of Ms. Landrieu, she could easily maintain residences in the Capitol and “back home.” It is referred to as “back home” for a good reason, as in, “I am staying here now, but I’ll soon be headed back home.”
In another column in The Advocate today, Mark Ballard also writes on this subject. In closing he offers this quote from Luke Welch, a councilman in Cottonport:
“Ominously for Landrieu’s re-election chances, Welch concluded: ‘What I got out of this conversation, is that she’s been there too long. She’s become too Washington.’”
Leave it to a small town Louisiana politician and elected official to figure and lay it all out.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is requested and appreciated.