by Marion Marks
Louisiana citizens have been guilty of drinking far too much Kool-Aid from the Republican Party Boss’s water cooler prior to this fall’s election. Proof of the disastrous effects were the utter melt down of formerly invincible David Vitter during the course of the governor’s election.
No sooner than Vitter announced his run for governor than the pundits named him the odds-on favorite to salvage the state from the wreckage of Jindal’s administration. The issue pundits neglected was the impact of Democrats, other Republican hopefuls and a few serious journalists who believed that Vitter had many skeletons the voters didn’t really appreciate. The election primary process then began to peel the layers off the Vitter onion.
The often soft-spoken John Bel Edwards held back few punches during the election as he called out the failures of the Jindal administration and the Vitter Washington double-speak that other Republicans had hammered so well during the primary. Vitter had been so well softened up by his fellow Republicans that Edwards as a target for being a Democrat didn’t seem like such an evil badge to wear.
The Republican hold on Louisiana in recent years has collected money and power for those who played party politics. Switching parties came easy to many old-line Democrats who saw the need to wear a “R” label to be acceptable among many traditional Republican (white) voters. And the racial umbrella that many Republicans proudly waived was often difficult to defend when crimes as well as offensive blunt political stands were taken in the name of public safety, cultural heritage or racism wearing another cape.
In one of Edwards most glowing ads, the label of living under the West Point Honor Code cut a clear line in the dirt with the Vitter legacy. Edwards comment to Vitter of “You’re not living by the (West Point) honor code. You’re living by the lawyer’s code.” was too much for many stout Republicans to ignore, and the differentiations only became clearer.
And, now with the alliances Edwards has made with many statewide leaders, a truce and perhaps calmer waters may be on the early 2016 political calendar. Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne has been designated as the next commissioner of administration by Edwards, and many Democrats will move into leadership positions.
In local elections, BESE and Caddo learned the power of Super PAC money, and the lessons may continue as residual money may influence judicial races in Caddo as well as other north Louisiana seats. The special session of the legislature may see outside money creep in to affect special-interest matters.
The Caddo Commissioners in 2016 will undergo major restructuring even though few new faces were elected. The politics of “Dean” Ken Epperson, Sr. will be tested as his decisions over the last twenty-plus years may come back to haunt him. Some people do read historical documents, look at video records and demand answers be replayed. Between pay raises, CPERS and personal demands for power and leadership, 2016 will be rich with intrigue.
More of the formerly invincible politicians may find themselves having to answer tough questions as taxpayers demand accountability and far more responsible leadership. Being flawed in Louisiana is not a crime, it’s just something we have to acknowledge and try to improve on in 2016.