This was basically a master class on what not to do when you have people up in arms about the disaster your tenure as mayor has become, but it’s also a fascinating case study on the cultural divide between cities and suburbs.
This goes for 20 minutes and it covers a couple of issues for which Cantrell is under fire. There is the profligate amount of international travel that Cantrell is racking up for useless purposes, and then there’s the support she’s offering for teenaged carjackers.
On the first, what Cantrell is saying is that heading to little towns in France and Switzerland to do sister-city agreements is “economic development” and her serving in a role as a “cultural ambassador” for the city, and she proceeds to put on a show of indignance that anybody would object to “Fraaaance” as a destination because New Orleans was founded by French explorers.
And then she contends that she has to travel first class for “safety” reasons, which is utter gibberish – are there gangs of pirates plying their trade in coach on international flights?
And then there was the court appearance which has sparked so much trouble. On that, Cantrell proceeded to say that “Ja,” who apparently is the 13-year-old quintuple carjacker for whom she put in an appearance in juvenile court, is a participant in Pathways, a pet program of Cantrell’s which takes young criminals and attempts to make them into productive citizens.
And she said “I take no sides,” which won’t go over too well. When you can’t side with the victims of carjacking over the carjackers, it’s a bad look. It doesn’t help that the victims of her little carjacker friend are all white and he’s black.
There isn’t a whole lot of light shed in this press conference, but there’s a good bit of heat. What’s most striking here isn’t really anything she says – it’s the hostile and defiant tone she says it in.
Reaction we’ve seen to this has been visceral, but it’s pretty noticeable that there’s a massive divide here.
Primarily it’s racial – white people, though not just white people, because we’ve seen some pretty intensely negative reaction from black people as well – are absolutely furious about this press conference. They sense the vibe coming off Cantrell which is that any questions about her lavish travel and her support for 13-year-old quintuple carjackers come from a place of racism, and they’re also disgusted by the nonsense arguments she offers.
But while it’s mostly a white reaction, what it really comes down to is a suburban reaction. Most of those people throwing a fit on social media about Cantrell live in the New Orleans area but not Orleans Parish. And what they’re so furious about is the fact that her maladministration has an effect on them – either because they work in the city, or because the city’s terrible economy has an effect on their finances, or whatever – but they’re powerless to do anything about her.
But then you have Cantrell’s defenders. Those are mostly black, and they’re pretty much all in Orleans Parish. And the defense doesn’t rely too much on substance – though they do make the case that Cantrell’s Pathways program is trying to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents and this is a worthwhile thing, and what else can she do but go to bat for the kids in the program?
But that’s not what the defenders really have to say. The main thrust of their argument is that LaToya Cantrell can’t be pushed around and she’s showing what a strong leader she is.
It’s a peculiar argument, because it doesn’t particularly connote leadership to stand in front of a microphone and be defiant and abusive toward reporters. But it’s a cultural signal for a certain segment of the population that she does so. Even if she’s wrong she’s standing up for herself, and that makes her stunning and brave.
Cantrell thrives on that. It would maybe even be admirable if she was a competent mayor, which she isn’t. But given the circumstances, it’s probably a bad idea to offer up such a brazen attitude when the rest of the state is ready to punish New Orleans for its lawlessness and left-wing lunacy. She’s becoming a serious problem for her party.