We think the idea of John Bel Edwards as a presidential candidate for 2020 is patently absurd, so for our readers who are irritated at the suggestion…we feel your pain. Nevertheless, Edwards continues to make moves which can only really be explained in the context of his preparing the ground for a 2020 run, so however reluctantly we’re going where the facts take us.
And we can’t explain this any other way than to raise the specter of a 2020 presidential run. Pure stupid stubbornness doesn’t quite cut it.
Louisiana’s governor is going to the state’s Supreme Court in hopes of reviving his executive order aimed at protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in state government.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, issued an order in April 2016 banning discrimination in state government and state contracts based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry challenged the order.
A state district judge and a state appeal court have agreed that the order was an unconstitutional attempt to expand state law.
On Friday (Dec. 1), Edwards’ office released a copy of its appeal to the state Supreme Court in New Orleans.
Edwards’ lawyers argue that the executive order, referred to in court documents as JBE 16-11, is not a law, but an executive branch policy that Edwards has the authority to set.
“JBE 16-11 is simply a policy directive concerning state employment in the executive branch and the contractual provisions of state services,” the governor’s Supreme Court filing states. “It does not have the effect or force of law. It establishes a principle significant to Governor Edwards — that discrimination is not a Louisiana value — through a valid mechanism for issuing executive branch directives.”
The governor has to have the worst lawyers in Louisiana to actually make so ridiculous an argument. Essentially, he’s saying the law doesn’t apply to him.
For better or worse, Louisiana’s legislature hasn’t made people on the exotic side of the sexual-preference spectrum a protected class in terms of employment. For better or worse there is no particular controversy about this fact; it’s very well established in statute and in jurisprudence. But Edwards attempted to write protections for LGBT people into state contracts he’s entering into, which would establish a number of bad precedents – most importantly, he’d be able to set state policy outside of the direction of the legislature, which is an abuse of his executive authority.
That’s why Landry refused to sign off on those contracts, which he has the power as Louisiana’s Attorney General to do.
Edwards challenged that in court, essentially arguing that Landry’s role was that of a rubber stamp to the governor. He had history on his side, as Louisiana’s Attorney General has historically been a stooge for whatever political machine has run the state, but legally Edwards was all wet and the judge told him so. That ruling was upheld at the circuit court level, and it’s going to be upheld by the Supreme Court, too.
Interestingly, though, it wasn’t fully established that the Attorney General has the power to void a state contract simply because he feels like it. John Bel Edwards stumbled into that by provoking this fight, and now the AG has gained in importance as a state official. So it’s an example of a governor making his office weaker by his own incompetence.
You would think having done this, Edwards would be leaving well enough alone. He’s gotten slaughtered in court by Landry every time he’s entered into one of these fights, so politically it would make sense to steer clear of them lest he build the AG’s stature up to the point that Landry kicks off a challenge to Edwards in the 2019 governor’s race and does so from a position of strength. Any good political consultant would tell Edwards to leave this alone, and if he wants to do something to help the LGBT crowd the way to go about it is to back legislative efforts to protect them, and then to try to shame all the Republican leges who vote no. This you’d only do if you had polling data showing it is or can be a winning issue with the public; right now, it isn’t.
Nobody in Louisiana will think it’s smart state politics for John Bel Edwards to pick a losing fight with Landry over whether he can unilaterally change state law and give preferential treatment to LGBT people in state contracts in contravention to policy set by the legislature. Nobody. The only place you curry any favor doing that is with the national Democrat party inside crowd, the ones who write checks to potential presidential candidates. Those people wouldn’t necessarily be dismayed by a losing effort in such a fight, moreover; that loss can be explained away by Louisiana being a red state and its people and judges being unenlightened, mouth-breathing conservatives unwilling to embrace the kind of cultural-Marxist progressivism which has done so much for New York, California and Chicago, for example.
It’s a very peculiar move. It flies in the face of Edwards’ narrative when he ran for governor in 2015, namely that he was a Blue Dog Democrat who differed with David Vitter only in the quality of his character, and it makes Edwards a liar at least in the sense that he was mendacious in the extreme when it comes to his ideological bent. And as such, it makes him less electable in 2019.
Which would make no sense if you’re Edwards.
Unless, of course, you’re not running for re-election but rather you’ll be throwing your hat in the ring for president in 2020.
Like we said, the prospect of Edwards as a 2020 presidential candidate is absurd. But so is this legal maneuvering. We don’t know how else to explain it.