Louisiana, with all of its innate assets has suffered a lost decade. Ten years of really bad leadership has resulted in an accelerating backward slide even as the rest of the South has blossomed. If we want something different going forward, before we enter into a new election cycle, we must understand our past history and make a dramatic course change.
Current metrics tell the tale: terrible education outcomes, urban murder rates among the highest in the nation, stagnant-to-negative population growth, bad income growth prospects and poor job opportunities, on and on. Last week’s poll placing public support of the governor low in the nation coupled with the disappointing popularity of the previous governor vividly display the public’s disdain for Louisiana’s malaise. But the question remains, how will voters respond to that history?
Louisiana has a propensity to elect charismatic leaders or leaders whose turn it is. With the exception perhaps of Bobby Jindal in his first term followed by his re-election, voters traditionally fall back upon the safe candidate, the candidate that they know well, the candidate that is cute or that has been in politics a long time, the safe candidate that they believe will not take a risk on a different course.
The elections of Jindal were a different thing. Jindal was elected on the promise of reigning in out-of-control spending and on charting a different course for Louisiana. In his first term he fulfilled much of that as his refusal to increase taxes effectively cut back on the automatic growth of spending that had been a by-product of the Katrina largesse. That effort infuriated the big government crowd but was widely appreciated by the voters.
Jindal was re-elected with an overwhelming majority to his second term on the basis of his first term accomplishments and on the promise to drastically reform education. After the first year of his second term, he caught Potomac Fever and forgot his promise to lead Louisiana. His popularity at home plunged as he spent more time running for President. There was a justified loss in faith among voters for anyone promising fundamental change. That loss in faith brought about the unlikely election of Edwards.
It can be said that Edwards’ only initiative was his unilateral acceptance of Obama’s Medicaid Expansion. One could argue that his acceptance of a constantly growing program on the promise of no cost to Louisiana was subterfuge and that assumption would be correct. Medicaid today eats up massive amounts of the budget and that will not change. The state’s budget is almost $10 billion more today than before Edwards assumed office and I doubt that anyone can point to much improvement in outcomes. History proves that spending does not equate to success in government or to a better quality of life.
Beyond Medicaid Edwards’ has accomplished nothing and the result has been an acceleration of our social and economic slide.
Of course there was COVID, but a leader must be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Hence after at least ten years, through two Administrations, the voters have nothing to show for their dreams and aspirations.
With our strong executive tradition of government Louisiana cannot afford a leader who is self-centered or who is feckless. As the last three terms have seen just such, the metrics justify my logic.
Next year the process begins. There will be a number of candidates coming from varying backgrounds. Almost all of the currently spoken about candidates are long time political figures and their histories will be on full display. The two questions the voters must ask are will any of these people be prepared to aggressively lead Louisiana out of the wilderness, and, perhaps as important, do these candidates have the ability and political courage to rally the support of the people to undertake the dramatic change in direction that is needed?
If Louisiana voters are foolish enough to elect a governor because he/she is safe or cute, a known quantity or because it is their turn to be governor then the last ten years will be a mirror of the coming decade. A time of steady decline and lost opportunity.
In the end the voters will choose, but voters would be very foolish if they don’t link Louisiana’s political history to the future that they deserve.