Louisiana’s Politicians Are Largely Impervious To The Virginia Election Results

One thing we’ve noticed in the 12 years we’ve done the Hayride is how little national political issues and trends seem to affect Louisiana – either with respect to our voters or our political class. This hasn’t changed much, so it probably shouldn’t be expected to change in the wake of the Virginia elections last week which sent shockwaves around the country.

Republicans are out there trying to digest those results and bottle some aspect of what led to a sweep of the statewide elections in Virginia. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy is talking about cooking up a Parents’ Bill of Rights, as people are talking about making the GOP the Mom & Dad Party, something which has Democrats terrorized. On the Left, there’s a full-blown civil war going on between the democrat socialist crowd and the James Carville’s of the world – and that’s reasonably entertaining:

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted political strategist James Carville for blaming the Democratic candidate’s loss in Virginia on progressives’ “stupid wokeness” — saying the term is fashionable among “older people.”​

“Like the average audience for people seriously using the word ​’​woke​’​ in a 2021 political discussion are James Carville and Fox News pundits so that should tell you all you need to know​,” the New York Democrat posted on Twitter.​​

She went on to blame Carville, who managed Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, for causing divisions among Democrats by using words like “woke.”

​”​And before people disingenuously complain ‘woke’ is denigrating to older people, it’s actually pundits like Carville using terms like ‘woke’ to insult voters under 45 that’s denigrating,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on social media.   

“​Don’t wonder why youth turnout falls when Dems talk about them like this. We need everyone​,” she said. ​

Carville, known as the “Ragin’ Cajun,” was asked in an interview on “PBS NewsHour” about Republican Glenn Youngkin’s win over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the governor’s race in Virginia — a state President Biden won by 10 percentage points only a year before.

You would look at what’s happened in Virginia and you would compare the situation there – more than a decade of Democrat rule in the statehouse – with the disaster which is John Bel Edwards’ governance in Louisiana, and you would expect that the state’s political class might be attempting to anticipate the public mood here. There is a statewide cycle in two years, after all, and an angry public could very easily destroy a host of political careers of the terminally out-of-touch.

But too many of the politicians in charge in Louisiana can’t see two years out. Seeing a week out might be too much to ask of them.

Take Bill Nungesser, the state’s lieutenant governor.

While the Virginia election was going on, Nungesser got the chance to be Louisiana’s acting governor. Edwards was off gallivanting in Scotland with the climate change cabal, and that gave Billy several days’ worth of opportunity to show himself to be a consequential figure in Louisiana politics.

Nungesser had the ability to issue executive orders which, while Edwards could reverse them once he came back to Louisiana, might have made for more political trouble than they’d be worth to the Democrat in the governor’s mansion.

We outlined three of those. Namely, he could have removed any mask mandates in place anywhere in Louisiana, he could have issued an executive order barring biological males in girls’ sports in the state and he could have sent the state police to New Orleans to retrieve the statues of Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard from the NOPD impound lot where they’re being stored after having been ripped down four years ago by former mayor Mitch Landrieu.

In all three cases, Nungesser’s actions would have boosted his credibility with a majority of the voters who elected him in 2015 and 2019 – and quite probably the majority of the Louisiana electorate overall. Those actions might have presented him as a man of action and courage, willing to take stands on principle. In the case of the monuments he also had an excellent argument for practicality – namely, that he’s the Lt. Governor, which puts him in charge of tourism, and the Lee and Beauregard statues are excellent specimens of public art, so preparing to put them back on display in areas of the state where they might be appreciated would serve to increase the state’s cultural profile and attractiveness to tourists.

He was acting governor, he saw what happened in Virginia, then he saw James Carville himself directly blame it on wokeness, and he didn’t act on obvious issues the people of Louisiana have talked about which would be in line with a stand against the woke.

Had he lifted a finger to show that he would make an effort at changing things, at acting on behalf of the people who voted for him, Nungesser might have made himself worth voting for. The guess is Edwards probably wouldn’t have done anything to reverse Nungesser once he returned. He might have reinstated the mask mandate provisions with respect to schools, and in doing so he’d have inflamed the same moms and dads who gave Terry McAuliffe the heave-ho in Virginia. But the trans issue? Highly unlikely he would have touched it. And Edwards has run away from the monuments issue with his hair on fire since becoming a candidate for governor in 2014; he certainly wouldn’t get involved now.

These calculations aren’t difficult. Nungesser refused to make them, which tells you that if you’re a voter in Louisiana similar to the people who just elected Glenn Youngkin and Winsome Sears in Virginia (and that’s close to 60 percent of the public, if not more), Billy Nungesser is of zero value to you whatsoever and a vote for him is a wasted vote just like last week was a wasted opportunity.

Nungesser isn’t the only one who abjectly failed to meet the moment.

Louisiana’s House of Representatives is currently short two committee chairmen after its Speaker, Clay Schexnayder, fired two of the five Democrats who held committee chairmanships this summer. Chad Brown and Vincent Pierre, who were the chairs of the Insurance and Transportation Committees, respectively, voted against the Speaker in a veto override of the girls’ sports bill, and their votes caused that effort to fail. It was the single largest defeat of Schexnayder’s political career and a massive humiliation for him. But in that moment the conservatives in the legislature came to his aid and congratulated him on the courage to seek that veto override in the first place.

They had his back. And for a moment Schexnayder looked like he finally understood his best path forward was to act as the Republican Speaker of the Republican House that he is. He fired those two committee chairmen and he told the Louisiana House Republican Delegation in one of its meetings that he would be replacing them with Republicans.

And then nothing happened.

Schexnayder told Republican delegation chairman Blake Miguez in a letter that he would have new chairmen named on Oct. 9. That’s a month ago today and no moves have been made. Miguez sent Schexnayder a letter asking for clarity more than a week ago and was rebuffed for an answer; instead, one of Schexnayder’s allies Lance Harris, who shares the same political consultant as Schexnayder, proceeded to harangue Miguez over his use of the delegation’s letterhead in his inquiry.

And still there has been no movement.

Now, it isn’t particularly consequential that chairmen be named to these committees right this minute. So long as they’re named a few weeks before the legislature next meets, there is no harm in the seats being open. But were Schexnayder a faithful Republican Speaker, he would have wanted to be decisive and forceful in naming Republican allies, whether old or new, to fill those spots on his leadership team. Dithering only brings back the feeling among most Republicans in the House that he isn’t really with them, and now the rumor mill has it that one or both of those committees will be given back to the Democrats.

Schexnayder is rumored to covet the state Commissioner of Agriculture job and envisages a run for it in 2023. We suspect public interest in his holding that job rather than the incumbent Mike Strain is less vigorous than his interest in making a statement with the naming of those two new committee chairs: slim and none.

If the Republicans can’t recognize the opportunity for forward movement the Virginia results offer, then you can bet the Democrats, who are completely out of touch, certainly don’t.

A recent poll in advance of Saturday’s mayoral election in New Orleans showed that LaToya Cantrell, who like Edwards was on hand in Scotland to babble about climate change, has a healthy 57 percent approval rating. She’s only at 42 percent with white voters, but white voters in New Orleans are an irrelevant and mostly-despised minority. With blacks she’s at 70 percent.

Cantrell will be re-elected on Saturday with a majority in the primary barring something thoroughly unforeseen. None of the contenders running against her has gained much traction and the voters in that city are perfectly comfortable with the dysfunction and idiocy she’s put on display for the last four years. Not even news of an FBI raid on the Sewerage & Water Board headquarters last week makes a difference there. Politicians in New Orleans don’t have to pay attention to Virginia because the voters in New Orleans can barely find the Commonwealth on a map.

And if Cantrell is insulated from the wave building across the country, Edwards is a lame duck approaching term limits. He really couldn’t give a damn what the voters of this state think, which is why he was in Scotland last week essentially taunting prospective successors like Jeff Landry and John Schroder.

Gov. John Bel Edwards assured attendees at an international climate change conference this week that no matter who replaces him in the governor’s mansion in two years, Louisiana’s commitment to clean energy investments won’t change.

“I don’t think the next governor’s going to be able to walk this back, even if they’re not thinking like I am,” Edwards said Tuesday during a panel at the United Nations conference in Scotland, known as COP26.

That’s because, the governor said, the global economy won’t allow it. Corporate stockholders are demanding investments in renewable resources, and oil and gas firms are rebranding themselves as energy companies, as they commit to reducing their carbon footprint.

Edwards might even be right in his statements, though not in the way he presents them.

Essentially, what we’ve seen in Louisiana is more or less the wholesale destruction of the oil and gas industry in the state through tax and regulatory policy above and beyond Edwards’ green nonsense. That destruction is going to be difficult to reverse, and it’s going to be difficult to reclaim the job losses it carries.

Just yesterday, for example, this colossal blow to the economy of the New Orleans area landed…

Phillip 66 announced Monday that it will convert its Alliance Refinery in Belle Chase, to a terminal facility. It will be used to store fuel instead of refining oil.

Company executives said in a statement that the extensive damage Hurricane Ida had done to the refinery proved to be too expensive to reopen.

“We made this decision after exploring several options and considering the investment needed to repair the refinery following Hurricane Ida,” said Greg Garland, Chairman and CEO of Phillips 66. “Alliance’s existing infrastructure and Gulf Coast location make it an attractive midstream asset. Phillips 66 will continue to be a major refiner with 12 facilities in the U.S. and Europe.”

The plant was put up for sale back in August when the company shift its focus to lower-carbon fuels.

“Our decision was a difficult one, and we understand it has a profound impact on our employees, contractors, and the broader Belle Chasse community,” Garland said. “We will work to help them through this transition and support them as Alliance takes on a new role in our portfolio.”

The Alliance Refinery employs approximately 500 employees and 400 contractors. The conversion is expected to take place in 2022.

So that’s the better part of 1,000 jobs which have gone by the boards, and no, those won’t be made up installing solar panels or windmills. They’re gone, and Landry or Schroder can’t bring them back.

Edwards was in Scotland bragging about this rather than lamenting it. Meanwhile gasoline prices in Louisiana are the highest they’ve been in more than a decade while the state’s economy is in the dumper. And he manifestly doesn’t care.

Probably because he knows he’ll never be elected to significant office in Louisiana ever again.

It’ll be interesting to see, as the wave of citizens disgusted with woke COVID insanity, climate change activism, critical race theory and transgenderism begin tearing down our current political class, whether there are politicians in Louisiana willing to ride it. There are some who might. But the people who represent the Powers That Be in Louisiana are clearly out of touch.

Either that, or they simply aren’t capable of change. It seems that’s going to have to come from the grassroots.

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