And so The Governor’s Wife crashes and burns, but in a weird way it can serve as a metaphor for the politics that its male lead, Prisoner #03128-095, inflicted upon Louisiana. And the gift keeps on giving.
Known outside the prison walls as former Gov. Edwin Edwards, this reality television series sought to chronicle the trials and tribulations that the octogenarian faced with a wife some five decades his junior, both thrice married and twice divorced, as they blended families and sought to become parents. After a sustainable draw of over a million viewers at its debut, viewership appeared to drop off rapidly and led to the network showing it to offload the remaining episodes quickly and throwing its reruns onto a sister network.
But the drive-by-slowly-to-rubberneck-an-accident quality to it, which leading trade publication Variety called “creepy,” overlay a much darker aspect to it all that no doubt turned off potential viewers and sent others who actually laid eyes on it reaching for their remotes. It was exploitative, of its most prominent victim willingly on his part, and on others not so willingly.
No one can read the minds of those involved in affairs of the heart, but let’s put it this way: there are enough guys in their late seventies who led upstanding and quiet lives who didn’t go to jail for trying to broker corrupt deals and didn’t have a sycophant write a book about them, but they seem not to have interested the now Trina Edwards enough to engage her affections. Had she not corralled Edwin’s attention, would even a hundred people who know she is?
And Edwin being Edwin, why wouldn’t he submit to the blandishments of a nubile blonde? After all, his desire to exercise power and privilege for decades was predicated on his ability to win the adulation of the masses. What many people don’t realize about politicians is that while many are attracted by the power and privilege connected to their office-holding, as much if not more they crave the crowd’s affection, by the votes and campaign funds its members hand over, by the supplications they make, and by the reification they emanate. It’s a huge ego trip, and Edwin has spent a lifetime hooting it as if it were crack. Yet perhaps, given his age and relative position in life at the time, the biggest speedball he ever consumed was having this blonde fall all over him.
Which left the door wide open to his exploitation. Willing it is, yes, but what guy in his right mind, once called derisively “The Silver Zipper” for his preternatural abilities with the ladies, would admit on TV the plan to have offspring precludes his performing for his wife and relies instead upon seed from the past? Only one who’s an attention whore, even if you reveal you didn’t exactly have fun in the process of participating in this means of revelation.
Just so. You can take the geezer out of politics, but not the politician out of the geezer. As long as it keeps him in the spotlight, as long as it has people treating him as if he has any relevance and can command their bonhomie, no matter what is asked of him by a wife just as driven in her pursuit of celebrity, Edwin is all in – regardless of the fact that in doing this, he has managed to do something that political opponents had wished could have happened during his era of genuine political relevance: he’s become a cartoon character.
In a way, that’s actually too bad, because he has some worthwhile perspectives to bring on current issues of the day that deserve serious scrutiny. Instead, he has become a farcical object, useful and used only because of his history. Let’s face it: would even a cable access station have bought a series on this basis if the old dude in question was Joe Schmo?
And this serves as a metaphor for his career at the top of state government. Just as his notoriety now is exploited for the gain of others, so too did he exploit the state. Any dishonesty aside, his policies retarded economic growth through confiscatory taxation and gimmickry in revenue raising, wealth transfer to discourage economic activity, poor spending choices designed primarily to benefit a set of elites, and encouragement of a culture to spend now, consequences aside. These put the state in a posture that will take decades to overcome, in no small part due to the reinforcement of a populist political culture only now being challenged and changed. All to achieve power and privilege, and the fealty of a good portion of the masses to fuel his egotism.
He exploited us, just as now he’s getting exploited. Except a lot of us weren’t willing to be as now is. And he’s still doing it to us, in a way: bet your bottom dollar that the series qualified for the state’s absurdly generous and wasteful production tax credits. We may think the joke is on him, but it’s really on us, too, for we’ll probably ending paying in part for this dreck. Which is part of his enduring legacy as well.