This is the first of two guest posts in advance of Louisiana’s presidential primary election day this Saturday. The second one, focused on Hillary Clinton, is here.
Like both my parents, I was supposed to be a Baylor Bear.
But back in the spring of 2007, I made my way down I-49 – by unimaginable chance
following Bobby Jindal’s campaign bus for part of the trip – to LSU, and fell hopelessly in love with Louisiana. I fell in love with the culture, the food, the university, the city of Baton Rouge where I began my childhood and my sister was born, and the politics.
But it is the politics of the past nine years that are responsible for so much of the destruction happening in the Bayou State today: the complete collapse of public education, the disintegrating healthcare system, the billions-deep budget deficit.
LSU’s flagship agenda, the program responsible for recruiting me, is but a faint memory. It’s buried beneath nearly a billion dollars in cuts to higher ed over the past eight years, laid to rest next to all the jobs that hundreds of millions in tax breaks and benefits to Big Business were supposed to bring.
Everyone knows, painfully so, the story of how Bobby Jindal sold a bill of goods to Louisiana, and few are more relieved than I to see him out of the Governor’s Mansion. But when it comes to how we react to his decade of mismanagement, we have a stark choice ahead of us this election year.
And no, this choice has little to do with Republicans versus Democrats – this conversation is about which of the candidates has the integrity to do what is right by the people – we the people – who will carry that banner for us when we need it the most. This conversation is about which person has most consistently fought against toxic politics.
This conversation should include Bernie Sanders.
I understand the recoil some may be feeling at his mention – I was born and raised on the Gulf Coast. An old, wild-haired Senator from Vermont with a Brooklyn accent as strong as a Bourbon Street hand grenade doesn’t inspire immediate confidence – but hear me out.
What has happened in Louisiana over the past ten years is a concentrated, intense version of what is occurring on an industrial scale in America: the complete and total surrender of our politicians to a tiny number of moneyed, powerful people, and the steady erosion of our job security, our children’s education, and our way of life.
In Louisiana this took the form of unconstitutionally robbing the state’s public K-12 fund to kick back dollars to people running for-profit schools. It took the form of Wall Street energy companies being given the right to run roughshod through the wetlands, utterly destroying the places where my dad first took me duck hunting and where my uncle would visit from Dallas to go on fishing trips, now underwater. It took the form of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and direct grants to multinational corporations, each relishing the opportunity to have Louisiana’s politicians take turns groveling before them even as TOPS dried up, roads cracked, and public defender offices shuttered.
I know this because I was there – I was inside Louisiana’s political machine and saw what business-as-usual meant up close. I was behind the closed doors. I was there as the Gulf Coast died during the oil spill in 2010, then working for LAGOP chairman Roger Villere, who refused to even mention it for weeks on end out of fear of offending the oil industry, while he was running for Lieutenant Governor.
America needs a leader who will not abide by this highway robbery that we’ve all, in some way or another, gotten used to. America needs a leader who rejects the kind of world where politicians get paid ten times a year’s salary to make a speech. America needs a leader who can articulate the value of educating its citizens, the value of keeping its people healthy, the value of empowering the working and middle classes to have the opportunities our parents and grandparents did.
Bernie Sanders, frankly, is that leader – and to those among us who would red-scare their way into the conversation with cries of socialism I ask: is affordable higher education like TOPS a communist plot? Is examining the $18 trillion Americans will spend over the next ten years on healthcare and coming away wondering why we pay so much more for so little a Stalinist exercise? The silly rhetoric and scareword-dropping has to end – we’re better than that.
Anyone with half a mind for civics knows that Presidents don’t make laws, so much of this conversation about policy (no matter who the candidate is) is little more than a glorified thought experiment – but to that point, we desperately need someone in the driver’s seat who can articulate, logically and without condescension, what is best for America. We do not need a President who surrenders to mediocrity or wilts in the name of pragmatism. We do not need a President who promises prosperity but delivers cuts and divestment. We do not need a President who appeals to fear, spreading blame and hatred at home and abroad. We should not be insulted and asked to sit down or settle.
This isn’t about free markets versus the government, or conservatives versus liberals – this is about making our democracy work for the people again. Bernie Sanders is the only person among today’s crop of candidates who doesn’t pander, who doesn’t sell out, who doesn’t peek at the polls before answering a question. His 34-year career in public service has been a tireless march toward a more perfect union: he fights for civil rights, he fought against NAFTA and the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership before it was politically expedient to do so, he fights for the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and he fights against the deluge of dirty money in politics.
He fights for us.
Louisiana has spent far too many years slashing away at the best parts of herself, while her leaders tried to convince us that giving money away to carpetbagging corporations would one day yield prosperity. So while I could never presume to tell anyone how to vote, it is my deepest hope that you give Bernie Sanders the recognition and careful consideration such a decent person deserves.
Bernie Sanders is the best candidate, a champion for the people of Louisiana. Let the other pied piper candidates play their shrill music elsewhere – after all, Louisiana
Taylor Huckaby graduated from LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication in 2012 and is a political and strategic communications professional. You can follow him on Twitter @iwriterealgood. This post is subject to our disclaimer.