Before addressing the fundamental question propounded in the title of this article, I would like to take a moment to congratulate the many newly elected Republican officials throughout the state. With one obvious major exception, the October and November elections together constitute a major Republican victory and clearly indicate a strong conservative shift in the state’s political sentiment.
In both houses of the legislature strong conservatives were repeatedly elected in preference to Democrats and less conservative Republicans, which was also the case in the BESE board, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and many parish races. As his weekend celebration concludes, John Bel Edwards must wake up to this new political reality which confronts him.
I would like to thank President Trump, his family, and Vice President Pence for their many expressions of support and visits to our state. It was most assuredly the President who got us through the primary and almost across the finish line in the run-off.
I would also like to thank Eddie Rispone for taking up the Republican banner and nearly achieving the rare feat of defeating a sitting Louisiana governor. A political novice who took up our cause solely to better the lives of his fellow Louisianians, with nothing to gain and much to lose, Eddie had the right political instincts and the executive know-how to turn this state around in short order.
Unfortunately, he was ill-served by his senior political advisors who insisted on running a top-down, data driven campaign which did not adequately focus on the issues and his opponent’s many failures. But let there be no doubt that Eddie was nevertheless the better candidate for a more prosperous Louisiana. Our great misfortune is that in retrospect this was clearly a winnable race against a vulnerable governor.
So here we are today- a state with an out-of-control budget, deteriorating infrastructure, far too many failing schools, high unemployment, diminishing population (with the very real prospect of losing another Congressional seat), most areas in an economic free fall, and very high sales taxes. We continue to be last or nearly so in every national survey. To top it all off, the voters have just elected a substantially more conservative Senate and House, and re-elected a liberal Democrat governor. So where do we go from here?
The answer to this question is partly up to John Bel Edwards. Bill Clinton, a far better politician than our current governor, understood the new political reality when he made an accommodation with a more Republican Congress which was elected during his administration. Remember his statement, “The era of big government is over.” He throttled back his liberal instincts, at least though his second term.
We shall know soon enough whether John Bel Edwards can heed this lesson. After all, his election was by the narrowest of margins against a political newcomer. His victory certainly does not constitute a mandate, and even if he will not again be subject to the will of the electorate, he must be aware that he is most assuredly still subject to the verdict of history.
For the other part of the answer to this question, we must go to our legislative delegation:
Republican and other conservative minded members of both houses must stand firmly in opposing this Governor when he demands higher taxes and fees, fights tort reform and proper Medicaid expansion qualifications (and the enforcement thereof), attempts to undo educational reforms, and issues executive orders which usurp the powers of our elected legislature. Conversely, if and when this Governor manages to propose legislation which promotes jobs and industry, our members should work with him without hesitation.
As for the internal workings of the legislature, it is to be hoped that proven conservative Republicans will be chosen for leadership positions. Considering their ever diminishing presence in both chambers, Democrats should not be appointed to any committee chairmanships and the custom of automatically appointing Democrats to vice chairmanships should be reviewed. Absolutely no committee should have a Democrat majority in a chamber where two-thirds of the elected legislators are Republican.
A legislative agenda with a clear vision for Louisiana’s future should be crafted and then implemented by the Republican majority delegation, which should no longer be constrained by this Governor’s annual hodge-podge of disparate, unconnected bills designed solely to please his various constituencies. Most importantly, the legislature must finally wean itself from the pernicious ghost of Huey Long and become a fully independent branch of government, a development long desired by voters of every political stripe.
If the Governor barely eked out a narrow election victory on November 16th, the will of the people of Louisiana was clearly expressed in the overwhelming election of Republican and conservative legislators throughout this election cycle. This charge must be honored by our representatives and recognized by our Governor, or disaster will surely follow.
LOUIS GURVICH, Chairman
Republican Party of Louisiana