My doctorate isn’t medical, but Democrat former state Sen. Karen Peterson finally took my advice, ironically as the party in which she served in a senior position increasingly has adopted the unhinged style that she practiced in her legislating.
Last week, on the Louisiana Senate floor, Peterson called quits to her 23-year legislative career about 20 months early, citing a decision to focus on her personal life. She publicly has battled gambling addiction, which she attributes to depression.
Some specific incidents in recent years hinted at her personal struggles. In 2016, Peterson went ballistic over a colleague’s birthday cake she called sexist and profanely chewed out its creators and recipient. In 2019, she also became vituperative over her exclusion to admission to a casino, even though being barred being was her idea.
But her legislating style perhaps provided the most obvious evidence that personal demons haunted her. She regularly in social media and in committee or on the floor through her questioning or side comments often injected harsh partisan political statements, not often passing up opportunities to bash Republicans and conservatives on matters seemingly-unrelated to ideological conflict.
When Republican former Pres. Donald Trump ascended to the White House in 2016, this appeared to push leftist elites into a paranoic derangement in how they carried out the business of politics. Always prone to this because the base tenets of liberalism deflect away from personal responsibility towards a search for bogeymen to explain outcomes, after his election the political left became even more conspiratorial in worldview, and because of its sharing roots with Marxism, even more insular and shielded from analyzing the faulty presumptions of that worldview and the policy mistakes stemming from that as a means to correct itself.
Thus, for example, over the past few years the leftist elites that overwhelmingly populate powerful Democrats accepted critical theory as certainty despite its obvious flaws in validly describing how the world works where criticism along those lines became transformed into validation of it; misclassified techniques to mutilate and chemically abuse children who at a given moment felt their self-conception of gender didn’t match their physical sex from gender-changing to “gender-affirming” in scope; and shilled massive increases in government spending that bring benefits to certain constituencies at the expense of others are sold as “investment” rather than understood as this truly is, wealth redistribution by raw power.
This closed system that also includes tech titans, woke academia, and media that alternates between unthinking stenography of the favored and jettisoning objectivity to denounce the unfavored has created an incestuous echo chamber that cannot fathom the issue preferences of the median voter, yet maps the mind of the chosen few perfectly. It leads precisely to the severe disconnection where, to use a recent example, the elect complain about what they considered as the shape of things to come a hostile and puerile confirmation process for incoming Supreme Court member Kentaji Brown Jackson over issues and decisions driven by conservative interlocutors on entirely valid bases while completely evicting from memory the baseless witch hunt they perpetrated in trying to smear Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation.
The resulting extremism more and more dovetailed with Peterson’s own worldview, and it’s no accident that she had become the state party’s organization leader and part of the national party leadership in this time period. And perhaps had she won last year a special election for Congress, that might have provided her enough incentive – and room for enough enablement that could keep her demons from seriously impairing her performance, or at least sufficiently out of the public eye – for her to keep going in elected politics.
However, she did lose to a candidate-now-congressman who hardly differed from her in views except on gambling (which she, for obvious reasons, opposed any expansion thereof), and likely because of the combative and abrasive image she projected (a near clone of her on issues, then an electoral newcomer, nearly aced her out of the runoff). And a year later with her political career obviously coming to a close and with ever-shrinking leftist influence at the Capitol, leaving it all doesn’t seem as costly.
Sometimes politicians flee to and become very active in politics as an escape from personal issues but must toss that crutch to resolve those problems; I have known some like that. Hopefully she succeeds on that account, and I wish her well in doing so. If only her political allies had the same self-reflection to apply to their own ongoing ideological crackup.