It’s been interesting to watch the machinations of insider politics in our new legislature. As remarkable as it sounds, this is especially so concerning the Speaker’s race in the House. Remarkable because during the last four years the House has demonstrated strong independence and now the big question is the extent to which that will continue.
Most political observers are viewing all of this through the lens of the controversies about those who will lead, but I believe that the real discussion should be what the potential leaders will be about. It is one thing for a legislature to be obstructionist and, under the governorship of governor whose only claim to fame is that he raised taxes by billions in order to sustain a government that perpetually ranks last in success, that may not be all bad. But with the massive voter of approval of conservative Republican values demonstrated by those they elected to the legislature, Republicans need to assume a different mantle of leadership than has been seen before.
For instance, we have become almost desensitized by the sheer numbers of our fellow citizens who have left Louisiana, a number that approaches 80,000 just in the first term of Governor Edwards. But what has driven them out?
Well, it’s simple.
We are a state that just doesn’t produce jobs in the quantity or at salary levels to keep our own here, let alone attract new in-migrants. But that is old news, everyone knows all of that; they know that we must change to improve things. They know because Republicans pounded the airwaves during the election with that message, but the voters still re-elected Edwards. To me the reason for his narrow win is simple, it was the message that failed to instill in voters the courage to want to change.
And it is that message that the new leadership in the House and Senate can and must deliver, both in words and actions. Gone are the times when it was enough for a Speaker or a President to just roll over and compromise with a wrong-headed governor. We have seen that in play, and it has resulted in us being dead last in most measures. No, the Speaker and President must throw off the misguided notion that just because someone is Governor, he or she knows what they are doing and/or has the people’s best interest as their sole goal. Unfortunately, history tells us otherwise.
I am not naïve enough to believe that we can expect anything new after the re-election of John Bel Edwards’; in the worst case we will see a governor more focused on his own future than on that of our people. So, on the assumption that the people finally come to grips with the fact that in order to stem the out-migration of our best and brightest we must change into a pro-growth, economically aggressive state, the leadership of the legislature becomes incredibly important. There are two reasons that they rise to new levels; first, the President and Speaker will be able to create and demonstrate to the people a vision for Louisiana’s future and second, they will clear the way for the election in four years of a Republican governor who has the skills and motivation to make a difference.
Through the auspices of our legislative leaders, I am talking about the creation of a vision based upon new conservative values. Specifically, we must reject the social populism that has ruined our state. We must focus on freedom from government regulation and excessive taxation. We must create a new structure of education at all levels that rejects the old models, models that are not successfully educating our people. We must protect our pensioners, our old and weak. Above all we must focus on creating strong jobs so that government dependency, as lauded by Governor Edwards and his hangers-on, becomes a thing of the past.
A new conservative philosophy based upon 21st-century economics and 21st-century social values. A philosophy that rejects everything that we think that we know about government in Louisiana.
That is what is the significance of the election for President and Speaker. That is what sets the stage for a strategy to move Louisiana out of last place and to end the out-migration that Governor Edwards would sweep under the rug.
It would be a terrible thing if leaders emerge, only to be seduced by the same old way of doing business in the state capital. It would be even worse if they fall for the cries for the fairness of compromise when, for the first-time, conservatives have a working majority in both Houses of the legislature.
I can only hope that when all the dust settles, we have two leaders who understand that they have power to change Louisiana for the better, if only they use that power. Perhaps more important, that they exercise that power to demonstrate to the people that Louisiana can be run in a different way and that when election time comes around again, we can build on their work to ensure that all in Louisiana succeed so that we can reverse the tide of those who have fled to find opportunity in other states.
In the end it may well be the message as much as it is the messenger that sets legislative leadership apart form all of their predecessors.