Louisiana is, to understate it drastically, an interesting state. It is an epicenter for diverse cultures and events not typically seen anywhere in the U.S., let alone the Deep South. And yet, it is one of the reddest states in the country. Why?
To start, Louisiana is an oil-and-gas state. Its people are largely religious and socially conservative. Businesses are widely seen as saintly as, well, the Saints. The state’s top leadership is a virtual Republican monopoly. In a sense, Louisiana’s steady migration from Democrat to Republican seems natural, if not inevitable.
But even Republicans will lose in the long-term if Louisiana slides so deeply into a one-party system. Why? Look no further than Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform. It’s revolutionary, and not for a good reason. Such an unabashed kickback to parochial and charter schools would not have happened had there been a healthy ideological balance in state government. A “yes man” autocracy is a disaster in the making for any leader, regardless of affiliation.
Republicans don’t shoulder all the blame for that; Democrats have been inconsistent in their opposition. The party’s label has become toxic enough that many state Democrats switch to Republican just to have a chance at the polls. That stigma is in part due to Louisiana’s longstanding reputation as a pit of one-party (Democrat/Dixiecrat) corruption. Another aspect is outnumbered progressive citizens either hesitant to speak out or discouraged that it will do much good.
I wouldn’t say the ratio of liberal to conservative in Louisiana is anywhere close to even, but it’s also not as one-sided as its leadership would suggest. The difference is largely one of confidence.
By and large, people here assume that you’re a Republican — specifically, that you’re a far-right, tea party-leaning neoconservative. They’re the ones who offer forth their opinion in public with confidence. Conservatives freely affix bumper stickers advocating their candidates and stances, but an Obama sticker is more likely to meet and greet a baseball bat.
Coming out as liberal — or otherwise being critical of conservatism or unchecked capitalism in any way — can lead to horrified reactions from otherwise loving people. They take it as personally as if you declined to eat their home-cooked seafood dish. (I’ve had plenty of point-and-shriek moments on both counts.) This usually results in liberals being far less confident and effective than their conservative counterparts. For candidates, it’s political suicide.
Being born and raised in south Louisiana, I didn’t fully see just how deep this attitude is rooted until I moved away. I lived in Missouri for four years — itself not the most secular or progressive state. But I noticed right away that liberals, despite being the minority there, weren’t reticent. It was the first time in my life that I regularly ran into people who would espouse left-of-center views to a total stranger. The newspaper for which I worked published columns from readers, and they ran a far more diverse spectrum of views than I was used to here. The liberal writers frequently defied stereotypes — many were older, white, male business owners and even preachers. The free and frank exchange of ideas was a tremendous eye-opener. The difference became even more stark when I moved back to Louisiana and saw the political climate through new eyes.
Plenty of progressive people live in Louisiana. We’re not a tiny sliver of the population. At least, not as small as our say in state affairs would suggest. What we need to do is match the confidence and the clout of conservatives. Show our increasingly disaffected fellow citizens that alternatives exist — alternatives that don’t oppose their best interests as much as they might think, wherever they stand.
After all, Louisiana is our home too.
(Reposted and updated to reflect the Senate’s shameful vote.)
Politics. Money. Re-election. Selfishness. Fear. General spinelessness. Any other guesses?
Whatever it was, it wasn’t their conscience. No one with a good conscience can vote for a bill that robs money from the public education system in Louisiana – that gives taxpayer-funded handouts to the rich and makes inflated promises of hope to the poor. This vote is inexcusable.
Without further adieu, let’s see the roll call of Democrats who gave Bobby Jindal a sweeping victory (and dealt a major blow to our public schools) on his landmark education reform legislation.
BOBBY JINDAL DEMOCRATS
This reminds me of a time when state law also did not protect black people. State lawmakers back then tried the same thing that Senator Crowe is trying now — to use discriminatory state laws as an excuse for violating federal laws.It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.
I never thought I would write the words in the title consecutively. But one Republican legislator is showing that he’s not your cookie-cutter conservative nor is he a pawn of the Jindal machine (like almost all Republicans and many Democrats in Baton Rouge today).
Ladies and Gentlemen…meet Joe Harrison:
Joe, as we will appropriately call him, has been a leading voice of common sense and reason against Jindal’s attack on public education. As the article on NOLA.com called to our attention this morning, Joe has offered The Harrison Plan for education reform – a stark contrast to the Jindal plan and the the only tangible alternative offered thus far (that we know of). Ok, Democrats, pay attention.
Joe’s plan has 6 parts across 7 bills:
- Team teaching for K-4 – While it may be impractical to require that the same teachers follow a group of students for 5 years straight, his heart is in the right place as far as fostering a system in which teachers develop close relationships with kids. And I like the idea of partnering teachers with differentbackgrounds or areas of expertise. It is good to see a proposal that puts the focus back in the (public school) classroom.
- Mandated parental involvement – While this won’t always work, I think the idea is a good one. I’m not sure you can make a parent care if he or she doesn’t already, but it is important to find ways to get public school parents more actively involved. Overall, I doubt a bill like this would ever pass.
- Integrated school-based healthcare – The cycle of poverty is a big cause of poor performance in schools across Louisiana. Many children need a combination of health and social services, as the problems they face in these areas are directly related to how prepared they are to learn at school. So, it only makes sense that these services are offered on campus.
- Integrated school-based social services – See above. It also makes sense to package these services because of the potential cost efficiencies for the taxpayers.
- Requirement that school districts spend at least 80% of MFP on classroom instruction – As Joe says, “It’s as simple as ABC and 1,2,3.” Far too much is spent at the district level on administrative costs. This bill would force local school boards to put the money where it can best help students.
- Mandatory inclusion of the “founding principles” in high school history courses – This is a nonstarter. For starters, the term “founding principles” can mean different things to different people. I’m not sure what the thought was here, but I do agree that we need to beef up civics education.
Regardless of the details (or as some of our legislators would say, “irregardless”), the focus of the Harrison Plan is on improving public schools in practical ways. This is what education reform should be about — not about giving taxpayer dollars away to the private sector. Kudos to Joe for his courage and leadership! We need more folks like him in Baton Rouge.
In our first post on the ramifications of Jindal’s education reform package, we discussed what is likely to happen once the radical reforms become law:
Immediately after the legislation passes, profit-seeking corporations and individuals will rush to create new charter schools and private academies to take advantage of the taxpayer funds that will stream like water through a breached levee into the private sector. Not only that, churches and “community organizations” will follow suit in poor neighborhoods, establishing “pop-up” schools and marketing school “choice” to the local population.
Now if Jindal and his legislative lackeys have their way (and they will — who would stop them?), charter schools will be free to discriminate against prospective students in a variety of ways.
SB217, offered by State Senator A.G. Crowe (R-Slidell) and championed by the friendly folks with the Louisiana Family Forum, would strip several categories of protection from the current Education Department provision governing charter school contracts, including sexual orientation, English language proficiency, and athletic and academic performance.
So, a Christian charter school could freely deny admission to gay students — you know, so “the gay” wouldn’t rub off on the straight kids. And a charter school could pop up offering admission only to the best athletes in the community. Finally, any charter school could accept only those students deemed “academically qualified.” Taxpayer money stripped from the public schools would then go to charter schools who could recruit the best students and would thus show higher achievement.
Education reform in Louisiana as offered by the Jindal machine this year is a foregone conclusion. It will happen. All of it. Two weeks from now, the legislative session will be in virtual lame-duck status, Jindal allies holding their heads high and foes wondering what just hit them. The Governor and his aides will have claimed the spoils of a mandate and taken to the national airwaves to burnish Bobby’s credentials for President (and likely a spot on the ticket this year).
Results be damned, Louisiana’s public education system will be radically and most likely permanently changed. The thousands of families, many wealthy, who already send their children to parochial and private schools will relish their new tax credits, while a small number of families will attempt to use their new “scholarships” (vouchers) to claim one of the few available spots in private schools.
Immediately after the legislation passes, profit-seeking corporations and individuals will rush to create new charter schools and private academies to take advantage of the taxpayer funds that will stream like water through a breached levee into the private sector. Not only that, churches and “community organizations” will follow suit in poor neighborhoods, establishing “pop-up” schools and marketing school “choice” to the local population. The motivation of easy profits with with little or no accountability other than “customer satisfaction” will fuel this phenomenon, and parents with little education themselves will be convinced to pull their children out of public schools in favor of these new neighborhood schools established by churches and other seemingly-trustworthy groups. Money will go to slick marketing with little regard given to curriculum or teacher quality.
Thousands then millions of taxpayer dollars will drain from the public coffers leaving the state with even less money to support and improve public schools. As a result, local school boards will struggle to fill holes, retain teachers, and solve problems with less funding. The already weak foundation of the Louisiana public school system will slowly erode away.
It’s not the clowns over at ALEC driving the party. As Tom Dickinson says in Rolling Stone, the whole party is completely and objectively off the deep end:
By all rights, 2012 ought to be a cakewalk for the GOP. Unemployment is pandemic. Riot police are confronting protesters in public squares and on college campuses. In an epic fail of foresight, the Democratic convention will be held in one of the world’s banking centers, Charlotte, North Carolina – setting the stage for violent clashes not seen since the streets of Chicago, 1968. “I hope they keep this up,” gloated Grover Norquist, one of the Republican Party’s most influential strategists. “Hippies elected Nixon. Occupy Wall Street will beat Obama.”
But don’t go writing the president’s political obituary just yet: He may wind up being resurrected by the GOP itself. The Republican Party – dominated by hardliners still cocky after the electoral sweep of 2010 – has backed its entire slate of candidates into far-right corners on everything from the environment and immigration to taxation and economic austerity. Whether the GOP opts for Mitt Romney or an “anti-Mitt” is almost entirely beside the point. On the major policy issues of the day, there’s barely a ray of sunshine between any of the viable Republicans, not counting those who have committed the sin of libertarianism (Ron Paul) or moderation (Jon Huntsman). No matter who winds up with the nomination, it appears, Obama will face a candidate to the right of Barry Goldwater.
I appologize for not posting as much as I should. But we have been busy kicking of our 2012 season of Blue Mondays. Below you can find the full episode that was released this past Monday. Every other week we have a new show and I will be posting them here as well but we would also appriciate a “LIKE” over on our show page here.
Let us know what you think! Our YouTube Channel will also have shorter clips from the show and you can find that here. Let us know what you think and what topics you would like to see us cover in the future!
Louisiana’s 4th congressional district has been represented since 2009 by John Fleming, a physician and Subway sandwich baron from Mississippi. He is best known for saying really stupid things and being completely out of touch with average people.
For example, does anyone remember how much he needs to feed his family each year? Anyone? Bueller?
If you said $200,000, YOU’RE RIGHT! (He said it all on live television – more at TPM.) To Fleming, class warfare means pesky sandwich artists having the gall to ask for health insurance or other benefits.
Let’s also not forget his wonderfully eloquent ramblings on the godless socialism of democrats – and of course his political partnership with conservative moral champion David Vitter -
We are either going to go down the socialist road and become like western Europe and create, I guess really a godless society, an atheist society. Or we’re going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties and that we remain a Christian nation. So we’re going to have to win that battle, we’re going to have to solve that argument before we can once again reach across and work together on things.
And to add insult to idiocy, the honorable congressman apparently doesn’t know the difference between real and satirical media outlets. He stood strong on his Facebook page against Planned Parenthood’s new $8 billion “Abortionplex” as reported by The Onion.
So, the good ‘ol resurgent Louisiana Democrats have a candidate, yes?!
First, it was rumored that Bossier City trial lawyer Kyle Robinson was considering the seat. Then he “told friends” he wouldn’t.
Next, former Shreveport fire chief Brian Crawford was said to be considering the race. Some reports said he was being courted heavily by Democratic officials in Washington, D.C., and Crawford himself even contributed to the speculation by releasing a statement:
While I would be humbled for any national party to consider me a worthy candidate, ultimately, it would be the great people of our City, District, and/or State that would be the ultimate influence on any decision I would make, now or in the future to seek elected office. It is in that light, of local interest and growing concern, that I am presently evaluating the level and quality of representation we currently and have experienced in Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District.
Some say Fleming would have a big race on his hands should the attractive and hard-working Crawford decide to jump in. Everyone loves a hero, right?
But, alas, the Daily Kingfish has learned that Crawford has decided not to challenge Fleming in this year’s congressional race, citing family concerns.
So where does this leave Democrats? Back at square one, it seems.
More importantly, where does it leave people who live in the 4th district? Stuck with an out-of-touch, ultra-conservative member of the 1% for at least 2 more years.