GURVICH: Mr. Speaker, Republican Voters Deserve More

In the two days since the removal of Representative Ray Garofalo from his chairmanship of the important House Education Committee by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, much has happened.

Republican activists throughout the state have become enraged. There have been calls for rallies on the Capitol steps and threats to file recall petitions and to run more conservative opponents against sitting Republican legislators, etc., etc. House leadership appears to be hesitant and disorganized. It has, after all, most certainly been outmaneuvered of late and legislative results have so far been meager. Republican voters expected more, and who can blame them for being out of patience?

The immediate issue, Rep. Garofalo’s comment about “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” can be disposed of in short order: No one on either side ever believed for a single moment that Ray Garofalo was attempting to defend slavery in any way whatsoever. He was simply using a turn of phrase about a subject that he picked out of thin air as an example while answering a battery of rapid-fire questions at a hearing. He corrected himself immediately, as I am sure he has done a hundred times since. As far as anyone acting in good faith is concerned, this matter is settled.

But if the real issue is not Ray Garofalo’s comment, what, then, is it? The real issue is that Ray Garofalo dared to bring a bill before the House, HB564, which, in its present form at least, seeks to ban the teaching in public schools of “critical race theory” as fact. Now anyone familiar with this recent offshoot of Marxist theoretical doctrine knows full well that it is logically fallacious and highly divisive. The very concept that one race is inferior to or inherently flawed as compared to another is so fundamentally repugnant to basic American ideals, that even proposing to teach such a theory in our schools would have been inconceivable a few short years ago. Yet this divisive and hate-filled claptrap is indeed being taught in our schools, often to the virtual exclusion of traditional American history.

So why should it be difficult to ban the teaching as fact of an unproven, extremely controversial and divisive Marxist social theory, in Louisiana high schools? After all, there are sixty-eight Republican legislators in the Louisiana House as opposed to thirty-five Democrats and two independents. Republicans should be able to score easy victories against this withered Democrat opposition, especially when Republicans are so obviously right on an issue of crucial importance. What is the problem, here?

Of course, the answer lies in the very peculiar manner in which this Speaker came to power. You may recall that in early 2020, shortly after the re-election of Democrat John Bel Edwards to Louisiana’s governorship, Clay Schexnayder was elected as Speaker of the House. He was elected by a minority of the Republican delegation, acting in concert with every single Democrat in the House. An election by such an unnatural coalition composed mostly of opposition legislators was sure to eventually bear bitter fruit.

Now Democrats have instinctively opposed Rep. Garofalo’s HB564 for the simple reason that critical race theory was already being taught in the schools, and they certainly did not wish to have to overtly defend such a pernicious theory if they didn’t have to.  After all, that would mean violating every basic principle that the civil rights movement has held dear for the last seventy years and disavowing the teachings of Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and virtually all the major civil rights icons of the 20th century. No, Louisiana Democrats would not wish to be put in the position of defending critical race theory, and for good reason.

And so the Democrats made it perfectly clear to Speaker Schexnayder that the filing of Rep. Garofalo’s bill, or anything of a similar nature, would be looked upon with extreme displeasure. That is to say in the strained jargon sometimes used by Louisiana’s elected public officials, any such bill would “heighten racial tensions” and likely endanger the passage of certain other bills close to the Speaker’s heart.

And that is exactly how we arrived at where we are today. Rep. Garofalo filed his sorely-needed bill and was met with a fusillade of abusive questions and threats for his trouble. Since the gaffe, his bill failed in committee and has been stalled on life support, but he has steadfastly refused to give up and withdraw it. As a result, the members of the Legislative Black Caucus within the Democrat House delegation have blocked the Speaker’s tax reform bill, and just for good measure, the Speaker has been forced to mete out punishment to his former ally, Ray Garofalo. First, he was hung out to dry for three weeks, and then he was deprived of his chairmanship, anyway.

Now I should be remiss if I failed to mention that I for one find the spectacle of a cabal of left-wing Democrats extorting political favors from a Republican speaker, to be alarming in the extreme. Political extortion, once used successfully, is exactly like the real thing – blackmailers usually increase the frequency and amount of their demands over time, and that may be what is happening today.

We shall see soon enough, but the likelihood of an upheaval in the Speaker’s position is growing. In the meantime, I make three suggestions in order to reduce tensions:

1) Immediately and unequivocally restore Rep. Garofalo to his chairmanship;

2) Alert the most vocal and irreconcilable Democrat provocateurs that further threats and feuding would not be helpful, or appreciated;

3) Pay more attention to the wishes of the dozens of principled conservative House members than to radical House Democrats.

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