Every week at The American Spectator, I do a “Five Quick Things” column which isn’t all that dissimilar to the old Battlefield columns I used to do here at The Hayride. It’s a smorgasbord of commentary on current events, none of which is long enough for its own feature. But this week’s Five Quick Things leads with LaToya Cantrell and her tandem-float stupidity which played such hell with Mardi Gras this year.
Here was the take, which is a bit longer than most of what appears in the 5QT columns…
1. You cannot stupid-proof Mardi Gras, or really much of anything else.
Two deaths took place in four days during Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans this year, both of them people who fell under the wheels of parade floats. In both cases, the floats in question were “tandem floats,” which the city’s thoroughly incompetent mayor LaToya Cantrell has jumped in to ban. That has created a virtual impossibility of continuing Mardi Gras in New Orleans as it currently stands.
“Moving forward, we are eliminating the use of tandem floats moving forward,” she said. Yes, that is an accurate quote.
What’s a tandem float? A parade float, at least within Mardi Gras parlance, is a construction built on a trailer, which is pulled by a tractor. Tandem floats are simply multiple trailers hitched up to the same tractor. There is nothing particularly magical or sinister about them. Because the city government of New Orleans created an arbitrary regulation several years ago that limited Mardi Gras parades to a number between 14 and 45 floats, as defined by the number of “pull units” propelling them (some parades are pulled by trucks rather than tractors; the locals call those “truck parades,” and they’re typically considered the low-brow side of Mardi Gras), tandem floats are a way for parade krewes (a Mardi Gras krewe is a club putting on a parade, ball, or both) to allow more of their membership to ride in floats and still stay under that 45-float limit.
Are tandem floats more dangerous? Not until this year. The two freak accidents involved one parade-goer who incredibly attempted to cross between the two sections of a tandem float during the Krewe of Nyx parade, and then a man was pushed or fell under the back section of a tandem float during Saturday’s Krewe of Endymion parade, which resulted in one of the most celebrated and largest parades in all of Mardi Gras being disbanded halfway through its route. Hundreds of krewe members had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on throws and costumes, for nothing.
In both cases it would seem the failure wasn’t with the design or construction of the floats in question but rather with crowd control — or, more specifically, with crowd behavior. There are supposed to be barricades keeping people out of the streets when parades are going by, and people are supposed to stay behind the damn barricades. So long as they do, it doesn’t matter if what passes by are single floats or tandem floats; nobody will get hit. That’s harder to make happen when large numbers of parade-goers are drunk, or baked to the gills, or pathologically stupid.
Some of the remaining krewes found additional pull units and split up their tandem floats for the last parades of the season. But that would put many of them over the 45 pull-unit limit. That could mean the city was essentially screwing krewe members out of a chance to ride and therefore wasting money they’d already spent on the experience, or else ignoring open violations of their own laws the mayor made necessary.
To call this a disaster is not too strong. This is a city that already had to alter parade routes so that they wouldn’t pass in front of the ruined Hard Rock Hotel site, where a tarpaulin covers the otherwise-visible corpse of a construction worker who perished when the half-finished building collapsed in October; last week it came out that city building inspectors who had signed off on the failed construction project didn’t even visit the site. A city councilwoman earlier this year openly suggested a ban on plastic straws in French Quarter bars, something that positively will not fly, after she was present to see drains clogged with them when work crews undertook their first cleaning of those drains in more than 15 years. Abysmal Democrat politicians like Cantrell have run most of the legitimate economic activity out of the city of New Orleans over the past several decades, and tourism and hospitality, highlighted by the Mardi Gras season, is essentially what’s left.
And what we’re seeing now is they can’t even keep the parades running. The city can’t do its job to provide security for the parades they’re charging the krewes for, and it can’t keep the drains clean despite having a budget to do so. And when it manifestly fails to provide basic services like these, Cantrell and the other New Orleans pols immediately jump in to impose restrictions on ordinary people to make their lives harder in order to compensate for their own incompetence and poor performance.
You can’t stupid-proof life. The stupid people will only become bolder and more numerous, and they will inevitably defeat your efforts to save them. When the person in charge of the stupid-proofing, in this case Cantrell, is herself monumentally stupid, the entire project comes down just like the Hard Rock Hotel.
Earlier today in a Hayride post, Conrad Appel talking about the “tipping point,” at which there are more takers than makers among the population and dependency on government becomes a winner as an electoral sales pitch. It’s pretty clear New Orleans has passed that tipping point, as LaToya Cantrell is a hard-core leftist who goes to places like Cuba and Ghana thinking she’s going to learn mystical secrets of good governance from tinpot Third World potentates. The fact she won election over Desiree Charbonnet, who is nobody’s perfect candidate, based on being an ideological leftist, proved that The Big Easy is now The Big Handout.
My formulation of this is something I call “weaponized governmental failure,” and it goes like this…
It’s a choice to do a poor job with the more mundane tasks of running a city; if you do those what you will get is middle class voters moving in. Middle class voters tend to choose to live in places where they can expect to get actual value out of their tax dollars – good roads, safe streets, functional drainage, decent schools, a friendly business climate and a growing economy, among other things – and those things are hard to produce when you govern the way the Left does.
Put a different way, middle class voters are a pain in the rear. They want lots of things which make for grunt work out of a mayor, and a Democrat mayor like a Mitch Landrieu would rather spend his time on vacuous crap like “social change” and other cultural aggressions, and offering wealth redistribution and excuses for the bad personal habits which cause so many people to be poor. Accordingly, it is no great loss if those middle class voters decamp to the suburbs. Their exodus simply makes for an electorate which is a lot less demanding and easier to control.
Rich voters don’t really need anything, because they can generally pay for whatever they need out of pocket (for example, their kids go to private schools and they’ve got private security in their neighborhoods). All they require is the politicians give them access and the occasional favor, and they’ll not only vote for them but write campaign checks. Poor voters are generally unsophisticated and susceptible to government dependency, and thus manipulating them is no great task.
And the more middle class voters you drive out of the city, the more pliable the electorate becomes.
This dynamic is what we’re talking about when we describe it as Weaponized Governmental Failure. Urban Democrats have learned how to turn the decline of the cities they run into a formula for permanent political domination of those cities.
They rule over a ruin, but they rule.
Cantrell’s tandem-float rule is joined at the hip with the weaponized governmental failure theory. Why? Because the people populating those Mardi Gras krewes whose product she blew up with her arbitrary and idiotic mid-stream regulations don’t control the city of New Orleans. Most of them, given the changing demographics of the area, no longer even live in Orleans Parish. The old Uptown blue-blood types who used to control the city no longer do, and so many of them have moved out of Orleans while still holding membership in those big parade krewes that the krewes themselves look a lot like the city’s business community which is actively decamping for parts not governed by LaToya Cantrell.
And Cantrell is running around trying to placate people who couldn’t even do the simple thing of staying alive during a Mardi Gras parade. It isn’t hard not to get run over by a Mardi Gras float. It really isn’t. Just stay out of the street while one is coming, and especially try not to cross the street in the middle of a tandem float.
Most of the time, even the folks still living in Orleans have no trouble not becoming dead at Mardi Gras parades. Obviously that might be changing.
But Cantrell doesn’t want to say it’s irresponsible and stupid behavior which leads to tragedy like this and that people need to take some agency upon themselves not to engage in actions which get them dead. When you’re LaToya Cantrell, whose entire political career has been based on the proposition that everybody’s a victim and you’re the one who can help them get theirs, you’re poisoning your own brand saying something like that.
And the people who would agree with her, were she to say it, don’t generally live in Orleans Parish anymore, anyway.
That isn’t a racial statement, by the way, in case there are people out there who will immediately try to make it one. The black middle class, meaning people who happen to be black but who live their lives according to the proposition that they’d like to make their own way in the world and not depend on the government to do it for them, has been streaming out of Orleans Parish in the same fervor the white middle class has. That’s true in Baton Rouge as well, by the way, as it is in Detroit, Baltimore and lots of other cities where Weaponized Governmental Failure has been put into practice.
So what you have is a city where legitimate business has been mostly driven out, where the economy is hollowed-out to the point where you depend on tourist events like Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Essence Festival and even Southern Decadence, not to mention Final Fours, Super Bowls and big conventions, to prop up a restaurant and hospitality industry, and the mayor of the place can’t even do what it takes to keep those things going.
Were those two tandem-float deaths the product of floats traveling a lot faster than normal this year because the city didn’t want to part with overtime for NOPD officers? That’s a story which has been going around a great deal in the past week, and we’ve not seen it confirmed nor debunked. Sure, break up the tandem floats and make criminals out of the krewes who are now breaking the stupid city ordinance limiting them to 45 floats. That’s a great way to blame the middle-class-and-above folks from the suburbs (if not the oppressed remnant still living in Orleans) for the misfortunes of the dead, when maybe in a parade that moves at normal speed the risk of tragedy is less.
We’re seeing this over and over in New Orleans. The city’s leaders are blisteringly incompetent, and inflict that incompetence on the people not just by their poor performance but by insisting on rule changes which inconvenience the innocent for the benefit of the kakistocracy.
Which is a fundamental element of weaponized governmental failure. But in a place like New Orleans where the middle class is gone and the political battle is won, one wonders what’s the point? You’ve achieved your socialist utopia, LaToya. Go do your job and stop making excuses.