Who doesn’t remember the Left’s incessant attack line, “Russia, Russia, Russia”. Well that blew up in a single House committee hearing, and the Left quickly pivoted to “Quid Pro Quo” or “Abuse of Power” or whatever they thought would destroy the President. The Left’s desperate attacks, hypocritical as they may be, are born from a desire to maintain the policies that have kept Democrats in power. Today we recognize this technique as an element of Washington-style politics, but almost a hundred years ago it was called the “Big Lie”.
Louisiana is not immune from the same tactics. Who doesn’t remember the main theme of Governor Edwards’ re-election, that the people of Louisiana simply must re-elect him in order to save Baton Rouge from those evil Washington-style politics? Who didn’t watch the governor during his second inauguration speech, promising to protect the people from the same Washington practices? And what was literally the first thing that a re-elected Edwards did after his inauguration? As is his nature, he reached into his bag of tactics and pulled out the most basic of Washington-style politics as he demanded that Democrats block vote for his choice in the House Speaker’s race. That’s right, he expected them not to vote for the best candidate, just vote as the governor said.
Be they naïve or willing, despite what the media would have us believe, the use of Washington-style permeates the history of the Edwards’ years. Block voting by Democrats is just one tried and tested tactic, worse perhaps that invoking fear and jealousy rings loudly in the halls of the capital. Of course, the media ignores all of that, the governor is amazingly skillful at keeping the message one sided, a subtle message that only Republicans can invoke Washington.
With a straight face the governor decries the dangers of Washington creeping into Baton Rouge, only to invite it in with open arms. But refusing to allow the House the capacity to select its own Speaker without his influence wasn’t the only evidence his Washington-style approach. The most important construction project for Louisiana is a new Interstate bridge in Baton Rouge. So, when the result of the first selection of a multimillion-dollar contract for engineering services was announced, the state had skipped over the two highest ranking proposers and selected number three. And as no surprise, we found out that number three is owned by the single largest Democrat donor in the state. The Secretary of DOTD explained that the choice of number three was because number three had more experience working with local politicians or something to that effect. If anyone buys that story, I have some swampland in Arizona for sale! Washington, Louisiana style, on display; not what was best for the people, what was best for the governor. The media seems to have let this ugly action slide, I suppose their readers and viewers should ask them why they are so willing to accept such things, no questions asked.
As stated the use of Washington-style politics is the tactic of choice for Governor Edwards and the use of propaganda in the form of the Big Lie is part of those tactics. The list is long, starting with the famous “Fiscal Cliff” that wasn’t. We suffered through endless Special Sessions as he repeated over and over that only tax increases approaching $2 billion per year would save us from ending LSU football and throwing the elderly from nursing homes. None of that was true but it works in Washington, so he believes that it must work in Louisiana.
As we move toward the next session of the Legislature let me forecast what we should expect from John Bel Edwards’ K Street on the Bayou. Based upon his inaugural speech the Governor has not given up his free spending ways. He promised all kinds of increased, and worse recurring, “investments”, another word widely used by Washington Democrats. In the parlance of taxpayers, investments translate as increased spending. But that sounds so negative, so like good propagandists, Democrats hide it behind the softer word, investments. Unfortunately for our citizens, what was skillfully left out of the Governor’s speech was any necessity to link his investments to reform, so that at the current highest spending in the state’s history he would deliver the best for our state’s taxpayers. His silence speaks volumes but again only mute acceptance by the media.
I fully expect that the Governor will use his Democrat voting block and his erstwhile allies in the media to foment division amongst the Republican delegation. He can’t pull off his goals in the face of a unified group of Republicans, so he must use divide and conquer to fragment the opposition.
Case in point, the Speaker’s race. The new Speaker must realize that the Democrats didn’t vote for him because he was nice guy; they gave him their fickle vote because the governor told them to. The governor will use the threat of pulling that support if the Speaker doesn’t follow his orders.
But the Speaker has a counter to 4th floor Washington power plays. In order to preempt the governor, the new Speaker would be wise to fend off this tactic by building bridges to the Republicans that didn’t vote for him in his election, thereby creating a solid base that will support him in the face of a demanding governor. He must demonstrate his Republican credentials to all by carefully structuring committees to support conservative policies, and by elevating Republicans to leadership roles. The Speaker must send a message in the very early days of his term that he is the conservative Republican that I know him to be, and that his leadership will be based on conservative principles. If not the governor’s tactics will prevail and the Speaker will spend whatever time he has in office trying to cull support that won’t be there.
Yes, what the governor says about the impact of Washington-style politics in Baton Rouge is true. But the leading proponent of their use is the governor himself. Because history is prologue, the Speaker and all Republicans would be wise to study the history of tactics in the Edwards first term. Even as he was taking his hand off the Bible for the second time the governor was already planning on how to use Washington politics to his benefit. The new Speaker can upset that cynical strategy. Knowing him, as I think I do, I fully expect him to ensure House independence. That would be the only antidote to the governor’s Washington style.