Sunday, November 22, 2015

Upset In The Bayou - Democrats Take Back the Louisiana Governor's Mansion

John Bel Edwards raises the victory umbrella last night in LA
It was a pretty festive Saturday night down in the French Quarter for Louisiana Democrats after Democratic state representative John Bel Edwards defeated Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter in a runoff race for governor.

With 56% of the vote, Edwards broke a seven year loosing streak for Democrats in a solidly Red State that hadn't elected a single Democrat to state office since 2008.

There's little doubt that last nights results will reverberate around the country and have national political implications for the 2016 elections too.

You can bet your Thanksgiving Day leftovers that the current crop of Republican presidential candidates were huddling with their respective brain trusts this morning to reevaluate their own campaign messages in light of last nights election results in Louisiana.

In many ways, the governors race in Louisiana served as a political temperature gauge for 2016; one that warmed the hearts of Democrats and left Republicans feeling a little chilly.

A decisive majority of voters in a deep south state that voted Republican in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 presidential elections have just soundly rejected the failed extremist, partisan hyper-conservative policies of two-term Republican Governor Bobby Jindal.
Fiscal policy twins? Chris Christie & Bobby Jindal
Like other Republican governors, (we see you Chris Christie) Jindal's ill-advised embrace of the disastrous conservative "Starve The Beast" economic theories has left the Louisiana budget $1.6 billion in the red for 2015.

Despite his fiscal mismanagement, he still lavished $1 billion a year in tax breaks for corporations and the state's wealthiest citizens that have left Louisiana State University, public schools and the state's health care system facing deep cuts.

To get a true sense of the litany of ways that Jindal has failed the people of Louisiana and made problems far worse during his tenure, check out Alice Ollstein's article that was posted on back in June of this year.

When you understand what an unqualified disaster Jindal's administration has been for Louisiana, it's easy to understand why a significant number of Louisiana Republicans crossed party lines and voted for Edwards in the runoff election for governor.  

From the cultural perspective, it's of interest to note that when he first started out in politics, Jindal was well liked and highly-regarded by members of the Indian-American community across the nation; including both Republicans and Democrats.

As reported in a revealing NPR segment last Thursday, after accepting their generous political donations to help propel himself to the Governor's mansion in 2008, Jindal began to surf the wave of conservative resentment over the election of President Obama and morphed into a far right reactionary figure who had a polarizing effect on politics.

His controversial official governor's portrait (pictured below) symbolizes the peculiar dichotomy between how he sees himself, and who he actually is. And yes, that image on the left is his actual official portrait.
Wait. Who 'Dat?? Bobby Jindal's official Governor's portrait
Jindal, who changed his first name from Piyush to Bobby and converted to Christianity in high school, started taking his political cues from the Tea Party and tax policy advice from from the fringe anti-government tax-dodger Grover Norquist. 

He began to embrace the rigid social ideology of the racist zealot, conservative "thinker" and author Dinesh D'Souza and disappointed many in the Indian-American community during his failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination by trying to score points with primary voters by demonizing immigrants and publicly rejecting the hyphenated term Indian-American.

He displayed a quasi-delusional hypocrisy by using the derogatory term "Anchor Babies" even though his own mother was three months pregnant with him when his parents immigrated to America from India 45 years ago.

But Bobby Jindal's record as governor is just one of the factors in Democrats taking back the Louisiana governor's mansion for the first time since 2008.

By all accounts Governor-elect John Bel Edwards stuck to running an issues-oriented campaign even as Republican candidates squabbled amongst themselves; reflecting broader philosophical divisions within the Republican party taking place in Washington.

David Vitter (w/ his wife) faces the media in 2007 scandal
The unfortunate scandal surrounding Senator David Vitter's highly publicized 2007 tryst with a prostitute certainly didn't help his cause either in a state haunted by the specter of a long history of sketchy political ethics.

In contrast, Edwards military background, conservative Catholic upbringing and deep family ties to law enforcement played well to Louisiana voters across the political spectrum.

Any way you cut it, Edwards has certainly got his work cut out for him with all the fiscal wreckage and budget short falls left behind by Bobby Jindal and a Republican-dominated state legislature.

But keep your eye on this guy folks.

From a political standpoint 2020 isn't that far off.

And as both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have shown, being a popular Democratic governor from a southern state who can appeal to conservative-leaning swing voters in traditional Red States can be a pathway to the White House.

Just sayin'.

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