APPEL: Governor Edwards’ “Blame The Last Guy” Game

Just like his Party’s last president, our governor loves to blame everything on his predecessor.

While I may agree that there were failings during the time of Governor Jindal, his greatest legacy may be his reputation for what could have been. In effect to those who supported him Governor Jindal’s personal failings as a leader are a destructive legacy that will take a long time to erode.

Despite his ultimate failure as governor there were some of the good things that he accomplished in his eight years. Perhaps the most significant was that Governor Jindal had the political courage to fulfill his promise to unwind the out-of-control spending that had resulted from the revenue windfall left behind after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Though the Democrats and their media allies decry his austerity Jindal in fact performed a great service to the people by standing firm against out-of-control spending. The extraordinary amount of revenue resulting from the storms was a one-time event but the previous governor and the legislature spent them on a recurring growth of government. Had that trend not been reversed we would have been in serious trouble. In an articulate way Governor Jindal did what had to be done and we see the benefit in our budgets today. It is significant to note that current Governor Edwards voted for all but one of the Jindal budgets.

With the overwhelming support of the civic and business communities and against the teacher unions and their friends in the legislature Governor Jindal worked with the legislature to pass significant education reforms. These reforms were so significant that they were recognized literally around the world as the most important effort by any state at the time. Sadly because of the lack of commitment to reform by our current governor we have seen a gradual erosion of the reforms and the results will take much longer to achieve.

In another long-overdue achievement Governor Jindal was finally able to end the antiquated structure of healthcare for the poor in Louisiana. With the end of the old “Charity” system, a system that was almost unworkable in modern times, Louisiana was able to move to a more successful privatized model of healthcare delivery. Added to the restructuring of the that system Governor Jindal championed the construction of a new University Medical Center in New Orleans to replace the aging Old Charity buildings.

In one highly controversial move Governor Jindal moved higher education funding to a model that reflected what most other states do. Because of the largess of decades of petro-dollars flowing from oil and gas, Louisiana had traditionally funded higher education at a level far more than other states. Until the Jindal years the state paid about 70% and the individual about 30%, the exact reverse of what other states do. But by the time of Governor Jindal the oil and gas largess had ended so with great courage he flipped that funding model to match those other states. Without those petro-dollars the extraordinary high state funding level could not persist so this was the only option.

Now these positive results from Governor Jindal’s time are not without problems but they have and will go far for the future of Louisiana government. That being said the benefits that are derived are now clouded in a fog of negativity solely due to the failure of the governor’s moral compass. Governor Jindal brought so much promise to our state but he allowed his own personal ambition to supplant his oath to the people of Louisiana.

Among his allies the conversation always defaults to “What if Jindal have stayed home and just run the state?” We all know that for his last several years in office his focus left us behind as he pursued his dreams of national politics. We all know that that was indefensible and his reputation back home justifiably fell to abysmal levels. So what has been the collateral damage from Jindal’s folly and what legacy has he left his followers and his Party in Louisiana.

There is a great deal of consensus that Governor Edwards was elected because his opponent Senator David Vitter was a “flawed” candidate. No doubt that is so but there is a strong possibility that the Jindal legacy was the true underpinning of Governor Edwards’ election. During the 2015 campaign there were three well-known Republicans who were all forced to run away from the previous eight years.

This was not so much because of changes that Jindal had implemented as it was because of the reputation of Governor Jindal. Governor Edwards had a relatively easy time assuming a high road by simply co-opting the people’s genuine dislike of Jindal personally and forcing his opponents to play defense.

Now we move forward to the runup to the 2019 election season. We still hear Governor Edwards claim that he had been saddled with the burden of the Jindal fiscal strategy, a strategy that as I noted he supported over and over again. I might suggest that Governor Edwards’ support of the Jindal budgets was a result of the simple fact that they were the right thing to do while our state was immersed in a terrible economic climate. This period of Governor Jindal’s terms was concurrent with the eight years of President Obama’s economic malaise, made worse by an intra-state recession brought on by the decline in oil prices. So back then even Governor Edwards saw the wisdom of the Jindal budgets but because of the people’s lingering dislike of the previous governor, Governor Edwards is now able to hide from his votes and to make a flawed case that all Governor Jindal did was a failure. It would be interesting to see what a Governor Edwards would have done without Jindal’s control of spending, or without Jindal’s total overhaul of the Charity hospital system, or without Jindal’s reformed education system. My hunch is that we would have seen nothing done except more efforts to shore up the status quo.

The other hangover from Jindal is the media’s willingness to support the Democrat tactic of painting potential Republican adversaries with the Jindal legacy. We already hear it in their writing by placing these points in prominence, “he worked for Jindal” or “he was a major contributor to Jindal.” The media fails to link why these potential candidates were associated with Jindal, clearly intimating instead that that relationship has tainted them for perpetuity. For instance one notable candidate has spent the last decade contributing his time and his money to making positive change for Louisiana’s children through education reform. But always in a prominent place in any story about him is that he was a major contributor to Jindal (who was also a believer in education reform). In another case the great potential of another candidate has been given equal treatment with the fact that he was an early Chief of Staff to Jindal. I guess being close a governor eight years before is still toxic to the media.

In neither case does their relationship to Governor Jindal have any bearing upon their potential to change Louisiana for the better. But this all makes great talking points for Democrats and the media plays it up.

This is all the legacy of a past governor for his abject abandonment of the citizens he promised to serve in favor of his own ambitions; a legacy that is still reviled by the people. We should never forgive his actions but we should not allow our disgust to cloud the positive things that were accomplished. Nor should we allow the aberration of a failed Governor taint the promise that is offered by incredible candidates for office who happened to reside within the Jindal orbit for a brief time.

Despite the collateral damage left behind by Governor Jindal there are those of us who actually believe that Louisiana can prosper if only we can overcome the political philosophy that we are burdened with today, that same century old philosophy that is promoted by our current governor. I have written many times that we are a people who despite our blessings are constantly striving to catch up to the rest of America. Under our current leadership we may actually be regressing as we will have spent four years shoring up all the things that have held us back. It would be a terrible tragedy if the legacy of Governor Jindal ultimately turns out to be that his reputation with the people keeps them from seeing the great potential of bold new leadership.

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