If we needed any confirmation of why Democrats have fallen from any meaningful power in Louisiana, we need only observe the intervention of the base upon which it dominated state politics into the congressional campaign of Prisoner #03128-095, the microcosm of the old Louisiana political culture, in the guise of Juror 68.
His given name being Victor Durand, he gained notoriety when during the 2000 racketeering trial of the Democrat ex-governor formerly known as Edwin Edwards he managed to get himself removed for repeated violations of juror standards – potential telegraphing of his presence on the jury to Edwards, refusing to participate in deliberations, bringing in study aids such as a dictionary to jury deliberations, and leaving these with notes, and then initially lying about it. He claims he had said aloud he thought Edwards likely was innocent and was subjected to intimidation as a result, and this he charged was why he got removed.
Had he carried through on his alleged stated intention, that would have thrown the case into a mistrial and, as in 1986 on a related influence-peddling case, Edwards could have been tried again (in that instance, he skated), or not. But as was confirmed both at the appellate level and at the Supreme Court, where judges (unanimously at a panel at the circuit level and the Court turning down hearing an appeal) noted the district court had acted properly in the matter, this did not detract from Edwards’ guilt. While Edwards may have made claims since then that he was railroaded by political enemies, it seems extremely far-fetched that circuit court judges and justices of the Supreme Court were out to get him as well. He merited his felony conviction that landed him in the klink.
Not that perhaps Durand, from Edwards’ home town, ever should had been on a jury for this matter in the first place. Claiming he didn’t know much about politics prior to the trial, the record reflects part of the reason for his dismissal was an inability to understand instructions. Further, his alibi for bringing in the dictionary was that he could not understand words like “conspiracy” and “extort.” Frankly, Durand doesn’t come off as the sharpest tool in the shed and, especially given that the trial dealt with complexities in law and finance, certainly did not serve as a peer of Edwards’ in his ability to judge him.
Normally, the wider world should have no interest, much less publicize, the ignorance and/or intellectual slowness of a private citizen who had been guaranteed anonymity as part of the trial process. Yet since Edwards decided he had to infuse meaning into his life by making a quixotic run for Congress, Durand has put himself out there by revealing his role in the trial, proclaiming Edwards’ innocence, and lending visible support to Edwards’ campaign. And thereby in a way he serves as a symbol of the Louisiana that was, which could elect charlatans like Edwards, and why these Hadacol salesmen’s electoral chances today are much reduced.
When Edwards began his political career, he operated in a state that was entirely ill-equipped to progress as America led the world into a post-industrial economy. Louisiana relied heavily on an agricultural/fisheries sector that asked little in the way of education for the vast majority of those working in it, and not much less in aggregate for the bulk of petrochemical workers in that other dominant state industry. This was reflected in a state that benignly neglected its mission to provide a quality education to its citizens, which created an anchor that even today drags on the state’s quality of life prospects for them.
This environment provided an optimal breeding ground for a politics based not upon ideas but on personalities, where the base fulfilment of self-interested motives through control of government triumphed decisively over the abstract notion of a politics founded upon the notion that government should serve as a dispassionate vehicle for fairness to allow the pursuit of individual ends. It placed primacy on politicians who could rile people’s emotions with facile, Manichean bromides, rather than in inviting voters to decide on the basis of critical thinking using information about what politicians actually did, and not what they said about themselves or others. Edwards was a practitioner who excelled in this arena and led people like Durand around by their noses. Your typical Edwards supporter to this day thinks he was done a favor by the Silver Zipper during his time in office, when in reality Edwards was the beneficiary of a transaction. After all, Edwards and his ilk did quite well with sweetheart contracts and copious graft as they did little to promote real public policy solutions for the state or genuine opportunity for guys like Durand, even as those sheeple had no clue as to the abuse those they supported would visit upon them precisely by these twin failures.
But the world and state have changed since then. As in-migration occurred within the state as well as a commitment, increasing over time, to the provision of quality education, the cognitive capacities of the state’s people rose overall. Both inside and out of it, concomitantly information about politics, formerly monopolized by politicians and media gatekeepers, became much more freely available as time passed. In short, within Louisiana’s society there became proportionally fewer and fewer members like Durand: passive, largely ignorant, and of low cognitive capacity vessels for exploitation by snake oil vendors from the political world.
Simply, Louisiana has grown up and matured in reference to its political culture, moving it away from Edwards’ strength as a politician. It’s why he will get buried on Dec. 6, not just in terms of a landslide for his Republican opponent Garret Graves, but also in his kind as being able to maintain power in the state. Sure, his co-partisans still retain control in some central cities and in isolated rural areas of the state, but they are spent as a statewide political force. And, perhaps most poignantly, the symbol of this Edwards will not go out with a bang, but with a whimper.
Too many people thinking critically about politics with too much information about the political world and the politicians that inhabit it make the liberal populist model unsustainable for Louisiana’s Democrats to continue to have any chance of ruling and for them to have any impact in national politics. Incomprehensibly, by endorsing Edwards they show they have no understanding of the forces that have relegated them to a permanent minority. Nor will they as long as they continue to define their politics on taking advantage of the dwindling number Durands left in the state.