It isn’t the most important bill of this year’s Louisiana legislative session, but the long debate and brazen Legislative Black Caucus histrionics surrounding the passage of HB 416 yesterday was highly instructive of just who runs the state’s House of Representatives.
The bill, by Rep. Valarie Hodges, is pretty simple. It directs the state’s educational establishment to include a full discussion of World War II and the Holocaust in Louisiana’s public school offerings at the middle and high school levels. There is ample reason to believe the state’s public school kids are blindingly ignorant on the subject, and frankly, that’s unacceptable.
The thing to remember about the Nazis’ Final Solution and how it relates to life in a western democracy is that as much as we’d like to believe something like that can’t happen here, it absolutely can if people don’t understand the mechanics of that brand of horror. Adolf Hitler was, after all, a democratically elected leader of a country which at the time was considered one of the most sophisticated and advanced countries on earth. There is a reason, beyond shameless demagoguery, that Hitler’s name keeps coming up in our political discussions – he’s certainly a bogeyman, and for good reason, but deep down we all know there is a danger that someone like that might prey on enough voters’ hearts and minds to achieve the kind of political power that would make atrocities like those the Nazis perpetrated possible.
The only way to insure that can’t happen is for everybody to know and understand how it happened in Germany. That the Americans were the unadulterated good guys in World War II who saved the world from the tyranny and genocide of the Holocaust is an extra-special bonus, particularly in this day and age when it’s in educational fashion to defecate all over our history, culture and civics thanks to bad practices like the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
One of the reasons we pay taxes for public education is to create an informed citizenry capable of functioning within our political system. Teaching kids the difference between totalitarian socialism and ordered liberty by using World War II and the Holocaust is pretty compelling stuff. Hodges worked her butt off getting the National World War II Museum in New Orleans involved and building a coalition ready to jump in and improve instruction along these lines.
And the members of the Louisiana House of Representatives saw merit in the bill. It passed on a 66-32 vote.
But not before House Speaker Clay Schexnayder allowed Ted James and other members of the Legislative Black Caucus to put on a circus with amendments attempting to hijack the bill.
James, a Baton Rouge Democrat who chairs the Black Caucus, showed up with a list of black historical figures that he said he wanted covered in Louisiana high schools. He brazenly said that he was really interested in slapping that list onto another of Hodges’ bills, HB 352, which essentially would require that Louisiana teach patriotic civics as Florida has just passed legislation to require (without a single dissenting vote in either house, by the way), but since she hadn’t committed to allowing him to do that he was trying to hijack HB 416.
Then Tammy Phelps, a Shreveport Democrat, demanded that Hodges’ bill include the 1921 Tulsa race riot, which resulted in the destruction of “Black Wall Street,” a prosperous business community in that city, in the teaching of World War II.
Then Stephanie Hilferty, the wokest of the RINO’s in Louisiana’s legislature who cannot stop carrying water for the Legislative Black Caucus for some reason, demanded Hodges work with James to include his amendments on her civics bill. Hilferty at least ultimately voted for it.
And Buddy Mincey, another RINO who hails from Livingston Parish, proposed an amendment which would require that all non-public schools in the state be covered by Hodges’ bill, something which would have been a complete poison pill amendment in that it would have introduced the divisive subject of state control over private education into a straightforward legislative proposal with wide support. Mincey said he was looking for “consistency,” a word he repeated so often it sounded like he had just learned it, in a bizarre performance which all by itself might well have disqualified him from re-election.
Mincey, along with fellow RINO’s Joe Stagni and Barbara Freiberg, ended up voting against the bill – essentially under the ambit that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is in the midst of a review of social studies curricula around the state and Hodges’ bill would interfere with that. As though anybody ought to care about BESE’s problems. If the state legislature wants this material covered, the state legislature is the body in a position to dictate that to BESE.
And all the while, Schexnayder stood there at the Speaker’s rostrum and let this circus go on.
Rep. Beryl Amedee tried to shut the carnival down at the very beginning, asking Schexnayder for a ruling on whether James’ amendment was germane. The obvious answer for the Speaker to have given would have been no, that the bill was about whether to require the teaching of the Holocaust and World War II and not every other damn thing the legislators might have thought was worth dropping into the gumbo.
But that wasn’t his answer. Instead, he said sure, it was germane, and let the circus begin.
Hodges kept objecting to the attempts to hijack her bill, and she kept having the votes to keep them out. And for her trouble she was made to look uncooperative and surly.
In no other state legislature in the South run by Republicans with a Republican speaker would a Republican legislator bringing a non-frivolous bill like this allow that kind of behavior. But we’ve seen it over and over in this session, with what happened to Rep. Ray Garofalo the clearest example.
We’re getting to the point in this legislative session where it feels a lot like the end of an NFL season and your team is nowhere near a wild card spot. Sitting at 2-11 with three games to go, you almost want to lose the rest and make a bid for the first pick in the draft.
And, of course, to fire the coach.
The problem is there is no legislative draft. There’s just failure. All we’ve got let is to hope that the House members are willing to re-examine the quality of their leadership and make some changes. The Wrong Way Clay show can’t go on like this for two more years.