The short answer is probably not at this minute, but over the weekend we had an interesting discussion which produced some rather entertaining similarities. Fundamentally, while Auburn is riding high at this point and the state’s Democrats are almost dead as a viable political entity, it’s easy to envision a set of events which bring these two largely corrupt and discredited organizations into perfect alignment.
So, this being Monday morning and our interest in Charlie Rangel’s squirming just isn’t what it could be, we thought we’d explore this one a little.
The first thing we’ve got to remember here is that both our protagonists are dirty to the core. Auburn’s football program has been on probation as often as anybody; Arizona State and SMU tie at the top of the NCAA’s list of major infractions cases with eight apiece, but right behind those two villains is Auburn with seven – they’re tied with Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Wichita State and Wisconsin for third place. With the Cameron Newton debacle appearing as the cherry on top of a huge range of allegations surrounding head coach Gene Chizik and his staff’s recruiting practices, it looks like Major Infractions Cases No. 8 is rapidly coming down the pike.
Louisiana’s Democrat Party is similar in its conduct. Prior to the arrival of the state GOP as a viable contender for elective office in the 1980’s and 1990’s, scandal was a fact of life in state politics – enshrined, in fact, as an historical imperative. Whether it was the massive theft occurring in the aftermath of Huey Long’s demise, the ongoing graft and corruption of Leander Perez, the mobbed-up state of Orleans and Jefferson politics during Carlos Marcello’s long tenure as mafia kingfish, Edwin Edwards’ persistent gubernatorial sleaze or the uncanny record of the state’s insurance commissioners ending up in the slammer, it was a constant during the Democrats’ time as the dominant political party in the state that politicians would be nosing into the public trough and keeping federal prosecutors busy.
And of course it’s by no means a matter of history that the Louisiana Dems are crooked. We still await final resolution of the Dollar Bill Jefferson scandal, Aaron Broussard’s removal as Jefferson Parish President is still fresh in our collective minds and now there’s a Cam Newton scandal of its own brewing surrounding the Democrats’ participating in Calvin Fayard’s money-laundering operation to fund his daughter’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor.
The similarities surrounding that last part is what generated our discussion in the first place, because Auburn’s decision Saturday to disregard the NCAA’s recommendation not to play Newton amid his father’s admission to shopping him around to college recruiters for six-figure sums looks an awful lot like the kind of in-your-face defiance of the law the state’s Democrats have shown in refusing to file campaign reports for the two weeks prior to the Nov. 2 elections after it was disclosed that the elder Fayard had dropped $210,000 on the party within 24 hours of it spending virtually the same amount on a “media buy” on Caroline Fayard’s behalf.
It’s somewhat questionable whether dire consequences await the state party for what seems to be a flagrant violation of Louisiana campaign laws, but at Auburn it seems almost certain the ax will fall. It’s so bad that Auburn’s team motto this year has been “All In,” a loaded mantra if ever there was one since head coach Gene Chizik broke the glass on it this summer. On Saturday, as Chizik’s team cheap-shotted, clowned and brawled its way through one of the ugliest displays of gridiron disgrace since the Thug U. days at Miami, “All In” signs in the hands of Auburn fans were ubiquitous in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The consequences which await Auburn are likely not dissimilar to those the Louisiana Democrat Party has brought on itself during decades of misrule – punishment by the governing authorities, and terrible consequences on game/election days to come. Our analogy might not quite yet be ripe, but it’s not hard to see what’s coming.
Besides, there are lots of parallels between the two.
Who could look at Pat Dye and not see Edwin Edwards? Dye was known as perhaps the worst cheater in all of college sports during his time as Auburn’s head coach, ultimately bringing the program low with the Eric Ramsey scandal – things were so bad that when Dye was banished and Terry Bowden took over the reins of the program Auburn managed an undefeated season while on NCAA probation and nevertheless suffered the ignominy of being ineligible for a bowl bid or the conference title. Compare that with Edwards, who has spent more than a decade in federal prison as a result of his final corrupt term as Louisiana’s governor despite a constant stream of sleaze over the course of two decades during his time.
And yet Auburn fans look upon Dye as the same kind of lovable scoundrel Louisiana Democrats still see Edwards. In fact, there are suggestions being made that when Edwards is released in the near future he be brought back into the fold as a valued advisor on how to resurrect the state party’s fortunes. Incidentally, after Auburn’s boosters disposed of Bowden and his successor Tommy Tuberville for their up-and-down on-field fortunes in attempting to run a program without buying players Dye was brought back into the inner circle when Chizik was hired as the head coach in December 2008.
Those Auburn boosters appear to have a similarity of sorts with the financiers of the Louisiana Democrat Party, by the way. The current state party chair, Buddy Leach, set a record in 2003 by spending $44 per vote he received in his campaign for governor, and his method of spending that cash – allegedly literally buying votes – is something he was accused of during his successful 1978 congressional campaign. You might think of Leach as a decent doppleganger for Bobby Lowder, the notorious Auburn athletic kingpin who was responsible for dumping Bowden and making Tuberville’s life hell. Or you could look at Leach as someone not unlike Jimmy Rane, the proprietor of the Yellawood building materials empire who currently seems to hold sway over the Plainsman football program. Then again, Rane’s Louisiana Democrat twin might be Calvin Fayard.
Caroline Fayard has to be Cam Newton, though. While Newton hasn’t lost a game at Auburn and the younger Fayard found herself soundly drummed by Jay Dardenne in the Nov. 2 Lt. Gov. election, Louisiana Democrats see her as their great hope to produce a viable statewide elected official the way Auburn’s fans are hoping to get a championship of sorts out of Newton. That Fayard appeared to get illicit campaign donations from her father through the state party in a manner not unlike the cash assumedly routed to Newton through his father’s agency only brightens the picture.
Of course, the state Democrats appear to have several Tubervilles on their hands – Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, Billy Tauzin, John Kennedy, Scott Angelle, Simone Champagne, Walker Hines and maybe even John Alario are examples of Democrat politicians in the last few years who have had enough and, like Tuberville did to Auburn, told the party to stuff it on the way to becoming Republicans. Whether there’s a Bowden or not is a question; perhaps the best analogy to the diminutive coach would be former governor Kathleen Blanco, who didn’t appear to be as corrupt as most of her historical peers much like Bowden was. But just like Bowden was ultimately taken down by his sexual adventurism, Blanco’s incompetence in dealing with Katrina was her undoing. Neither were particularly effective or inspiring leaders.
If there’s a Dollar Bill analogy in Auburn, one would have to conclude it’s defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Fairley has dominated the line of scrimmage for Auburn the same way Jefferson was virtually unbeatable in his New Orleans congressional district, but just like Jefferson made a practice of operating shakedowns from Uptown to Georgetown, Fairley seems to have a penchant for dirty hits on opposing quarterbacks.
The analogy between Chizik and Charlie Melancon isn’t complete, as the consequences of Chizik’s having run a dirty program haven’t caught up to him in the vein Melancon’s campaign of 10 months’ worth of hooker discussions did on Nov. 2. Nor is there a ready-made Mary Landrieu analogy on the Auburn side, which is a shame – Landrieu’s Louisiana Purchase deal in exchange for her Obamacare vote and her history of riding Orleans Parish street money to close elections in 1996 and 2002 certainly fits within the theme of corrupt bargaining which brings our overall analogy to light.
Ultimately, though, what makes this an interesting comparison is that in the long run, if you’re running a disreputable operation you will eventually pay the price. Louisiana Democrats are suffering mightily for the corruption and incompetence of their misrule throughout the 20th century, and Auburn appears headed for an apocalypse and disgrace as a result of their current relapse into old-time sleaze.