I can’t really make that claim, but I did come up with a theory I included in today’s column at the American Spectator.
For the length of this crazy ordeal in which Landrieu has sided with a small group of radical loons demanding the bowdlerization of several historical landmarks around the city of New Orleans, including two of the more beautiful pieces of artistic sculpture in the city in the statues of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle and P.G.T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park, it’s been hard to pinpoint why on earth he would engage in such a long, difficult, divisive and politically suicidal (perhaps not in Orleans Parish, but certainly statewide, where between two-thirds and 70 percent of respondents to poll after poll disapprove of taking those monuments down) effort with so little payoff.
After all, what on earth does Landrieu get out of removing those monuments? Lee Circle is as it has been since 1878, and that statue on that pillar in the center is a New Orleans icon. It’s more or less impossible to conceive that Mitch Landrieu is going to replace it with something of equal or greater aesthetic value. Meaning he’ll be known more for destruction than creation as mayor.
And that’s a problem for Landrieu, because for a two-term mayor he has virtually no legacy to offer. He inherited a booming economy from Ray Nagin, whose inattention and incompetence gave the Crescent City the closest thing to limited government it has had in a century, and Mitch proceeded to throw water on it. He inherited a police force which had lots of problems but was hanging on, if barely, to control of the city’s streets and he saddled it with a consent decree courtesy of Eric Holder’s Justice Department, whom Landrieu stupidly brought in to “reform” the NOPD; now, the cops in New Orleans are limited by hug-a-thug tactics in dealing with one of the worst classes of hardened criminals in America, and the murder rate in the city reflects those limitations. Landrieu has done nothing to remedy the atrocious state of New Orleans’ roads. He failed to resolve long-standing issues of pay for cops and firemen his city has the resources to remedy. The city’s infrastructure looks much the same as it did when he took office in 2010.
Prior to the fiasco with the monuments, perhaps what you could say about Mitch was he was a caretaker mayor. His connected cronies made out just fine during his two terms; otherwise, there has been little to recommend him.
Despite that, as late as 2014, following his re-election with little opposition that spring, Landrieu was privately flapping his gums to the effect he would run against David Vitter for governor. He didn’t. Why?
Remember what happened that fall. His sister Mary was removed from the U.S. Senate by Louisiana’s voters. Not the ones from Orleans Parish, mind you; it was the voters from the rest of the state who rejected her and gave Bill Cassidy that seat by a quite comfortable margin. Mary’s contempt for the other 63 parishes was palpable; when in late October it started to become clear that she couldn’t win in the primary, which made it also clear that she wouldn’t win in the runoff, she popped off to an interviewer that Louisiana was difficult because of the state’s history of racism and sexism. And voters responded in kind to that contempt; as an incumbent against a semi-known Cassidy, Landrieu managed just 46 percent of the vote.
And that was the end of the Landrieu political dynasty in Louisiana. Mitch didn’t run against Vitter as he said he would, leaving the Democratic field to John Bel Edwards – who pulled off the shocker Landrieu, with a reputation for elite liberalism not recognized in the more homespun state legislator from Amite, couldn’t have. Mitch will finish his second term this year and then he’s through in state politics unless he wants to finish as a Democrat Party standard-bearer in hopeless races against entrenched Republicans.
It’s suburban white voters who have done that to the Landrieus; whether they’re from Jefferson and St. Tammany, Ascension and Livingston, Bossier and DeSoto or Iberia and St. Martin, the middle-class folks who have fled New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, plus some of the state’s other Democrat-led cities, are the ones who killed the Landrieu dynasty.
To Mitch, the urban elitist liberal whose politics of shameless pandering to black voters was learned at the feet of his father Moon Landrieu, those suburbanites are the enemy. And to him, those statues – of confederate racists, of course; never mind that P.G.T. Beauregard actually ran and lost a mayor’s race in New Orleans on a civil rights platform! – are the perfect representation of the suburbanites. They didn’t leave New Orleans for Jefferson and St. Tammany because of poor roads, bad schools, corrupt government, inefficient city services or out-of-control crime, they left because they’re racists and New Orleans has a black majority.
So Lee, Beauregard and Jefferson Davis are merely 19th-century symbols of the neo-Confederates in the ‘burbs. And how best to exact revenge on them?
Take down the symbols, of course. Landrieu may not be able to stop those hateful bastards in their McMansions and doublewides from bouncing his sister out of the Senate, but he can sure deprive them of their Southern historical patrimony on the streets he controls. And nobody – not Vitter, not Jeff Landry, not Donald Trump who he’s now raising money to start a PAC to go after, and certainly not the do-gooder preservationists at the Monumental Task Committee – can stop him from doing that.