Current events have dragged Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards back into an uncomfortable spotlight pitting his base voters for reelection against swing voters.
As the 2020 election season for the presidency ramps up with dozens of Democrats jockeying for their party’s nomination, simultaneously Edwards conducts his 2019 reelection attempt. His national-level counterparts have done him no favors by articulating an extreme leftist agenda anathema to a Louisiana majority. As a result, he does his best to ignore their existence.
Yet only miles from his residence occurred an incident that he cannot shy away from. Last month, an unidentified West Baton Rouge Parish deputy shot and killed a black man. Ostensibly in a raid of the place looking for illegal drugs according to the search warrant, an autopsy showed the bullet entered through the back of the neck, and the only eyewitness (although a potential accomplice in the drug crime, which could affect the veracity of her testimony) claims the shot came within seconds of law enforcement’s entrance.
On the surface, the shooting seems questionable, given the shot came from behind and almost immediately, conveying the impression that it presented no real chance for the guy to surrender peacefully. Because of that, the incident has become grafted into the trendy movement that alleges white law enforcement officers racially target with deadly force black suspects.
The currency of that notion was on full display at a rally last week attended by special interests, family members, and some community members. WBRSO hasn’t released any details about the deputy, but participants from their rhetoric heavily implied he was white, and they saw the shooting as part of the larger pattern alleging black suspects were much more likely to be killed by police and specifically white officers.
This sentiment several Democrats running for president share, if their campaign rhetoric means anything. Except that the latest data show that not only is that untrue, if anything it operates in the reverse. White officers are no more likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot black civilians. In fact, if there is a bias in police shootings after crime rates are taken into account, it is against white civilians, the study found.
These results confirm what numerous others like it have demonstrated, yet the mistaken belief lingers in minority communities and ideologically extreme others, in no small part because of its amplification by Democrats and currently from the party’s highest platform possible. They, Edwards can try to ignore.
But he can’t ignore the events and attitudes across the river. And in this election campaign, his inability to avoid that puts him between a rock and a hard place.
Safe to say that almost all of those articulating the false “police war on blacks” narrative are part of Edwards’ voting base. Also likely is that those voters open to persuasion to vote for him this fall atypically buy into the myth. So, if Edwards becomes “woke” and sympathizes with the myth believers, he helps to turn off that other segment; if he is identified as unwilling to declare systemic racism infuses police departments, he might placate that particular segment but disappoints his base.
And, as it is, his going mum on the issue still indicts him as believing in the conspiracy theory. In absence of any statement on this incident by him, casual voters will infer, based upon rhetoric from the Democrats running for the presidency, that Edwards, as a Democrat, agrees with their false worldview. Thus, if he doesn’t want to lose a chunk of that crucial swing vote, he’ll have to come out at some point and state he thinks the views of protesters at that rally are hogwash.
Which then upsets them, and they either will display a higher absentee rate on election day or less enthusiasm to endorse him to others, or both. If he has to make a declaration soon enough, it might even encourage a black Democrat to file against him, peeling some votes from him later in the year.
Of course, he can’t remain silent, because at the very least one or more of his opponents will ask him about this, directly or through campaign advertisements. In any event, his silence still carries repercussions, thanks to his party colleagues.
Accordingly, the Edwards high-wire act continues: play up any policy preference that deviates from liberalism while submerging (except for friendly audiences) any that don’t. His problem is, he won’t be spared guilt by association absolved only by sloughing off his base to the point he perhaps can’t win reelection.