Jeff Sadow covered the board pretty well, so I don’t need to regale you too completely with tales of the rhetorical outrages John Bel Edwards committed yesterday in his State of the State address.
Particularly given the verdict I delivered yesterday on the utter and complete failure Edwards has been for the seven-plus years he’s been in his current office.
But what’s worth doing, in the aftermath of the fusillade of lies, excuses and non-sequiturs Edwards unleashed on Louisiana’s legislature yesterday. He bored the audience touting the utter disaster that is Medicaid expansion, which puts a catastrophic number of our people on government health care (fat lot of good that did Louisiana when COVID came along and wiped out our people at one of the highest death rates in America, right?), flogging a low unemployment rate amid a net outmigration over his two terms as governor which looks like it’ll be in the neighborhood of 200,000 people and a net loss of more than 30,000 private sector jobs in this state since he took office, and then wasting everyone’s time pushing a bunch of leftist policy fantasies like “equal pay” and minimum wage bills, demanding the end of the death penalty in Louisiana when it’s been a decade since anybody was executed here, and so on.
Here’s a little theme music for this post, by the way. You’ll remember this song if you’re of a certain age…
What’s so terrible about all of this isn’t that John Bel Edwards is a pathetic liar who has wrecked this place as governor.
It’s that he’s gotten away with it.
Even now, at this late date when it’s clear how awful a governor he’s been, Edwards is sitting on approval ratings in the low 40’s in the last couple of polls we saw. He’s going to leave office in better shape than Bobby Jindal did despite performing far worse than Jindal.
And Edwards might actually be a viable candidate for something else down the road, most notably Bill Cassidy’s Senate seat in 2026.
Why? How do you perform this badly, then go and give a speech like that Jon Lovitz-style lie-fest yesterday, and get away with it?
I’ve got three answers for that, and many of you won’t like them.
First, it’s clear Louisiana’s state media is no better than the national media in terms of objectivity. It’s worse than that here, because the local TV stations barely even bother to cover anything that happens at the capitol. Local TV stations cover sensational murders, sex crimes and carjackings for the first 10 minutes of their 30-minute broadcasts at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00, and then there’s three minutes of stuff about politics, road closures and maybe a human interest piece, then it’s weather and sports. And that’s it.
And we don’t really have newspapers anymore. We have the Advocate, which is essentially a propaganda rag for Edwards’ regime and will brook zero criticism of anything he does, and we have the USA Today newspapers in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lafayette and Opelousas in which nearly no news is found at all, and we have a few smaller papers around the state which don’t cover state politics other than in op-ed columns once a week or something.
There’s a little talk radio, most of which isn’t really conservative. Moon Griffon and Jeff Crouere are, Brian Haldane is even-handed and maybe a little right-leaning, and everything else is partisan Democrat. In New Orleans, Newell Normand puts himself out there as though he’s a conservative but he’s an authoritarian leftist who won’t shut up about how terrible the conservative politicians are.
So there are very few places where the truth about how awful this guy has been as our governor is being told. We’re proud to say this is one of them, but The Hayride has been suppressed by Google and Facebook and other social media platforms since 2017. I get people all the time asking me “Hey, do you still do The Hayride? I never see your stuff in my feeds.” And of course I say yes, tell them to subscribe to The Nooner, for free, and to bookmark the site. But of course, people don’t use bookmarks anymore. They just scroll down and so they see what Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk will show them and that’s it.
So Edwards gets away with it because his critics are suppressed in regular and social media.
I’m going to give short shrift to how Edwards has gotten away with it thanks to help he’s had from Republicans in the legislature. That’s an obvious fact, but it’s a subject that I want to do an entire other post on later this week when something happens that I know about but can’t yet discuss. So let me apologize for leaving a chunk of this discussion out.
But he also gets away with it because a lot of people simply refuse to recognize why he’s in office. We’ve generally done a terrible job of accountability among conservatives in Louisiana, and it’s something we should really attempt to put right before we have another statewide election cycle.
John Bel Edwards got elected with the support of a lot of Republican voters who utterly betrayed their principles and engaged in willful blindness about what they were voting for. And while many of those voters have repudiated those destructive votes, there are still a decent number of them who are unrepentant and getting away with it.
People look at Edwards’ initial election in 2015, and actually that seems to be getting more attention this year now that you have a governor’s race with one Democrat (actually two, as Hunter Lundy was a Democrat all his life and now is running as a self-funded independent calling himself a Christian conservative candidate, something you’re free to think isn’t a grift if you want to), and they don’t really understand why David Vitter lost.
Yes, Vitter was a mediocre retail politician in a race where retail politics is king. Vitter came up in federal politics – from the state legislature, he then got elected to Congress and the Senate running as a conservative on policy. And when Louisiana voters consider federal races, they’re pretty ideological and they’re decidedly conservative. He was in his element there and he was wildly successful.
It didn’t matter, for example, that in 2007 he got hit with the scandal surrounding his dalliances with sex workers. He ran for re-election in 2010 and beat Charlie Melancon like a rented mule. Nobody gave a damn about hookers then, and so Vitter reasonably thought that issue wouldn’t bite him.
But it did. Why? Because millions of dollars were spent forcing the hookers thing back to the forefront. By Democrat PACs funded from trial lawyers and other special interests, and by Vitter’s Republican opponents who had nothing else they could say. And it worked.
It worked because Vitter was pushing the most comprehensive, aggressive reform package attempted in Louisiana since Huey Long’s time, and had he been able to bring it home he would have mostly vaporized Longism as a present-day thing in this state. But lots of those special interests are wedded to the big-government welfare-and-regulatory state from which they get incumbency protection and government contracts. When Vitter openly boasted that he’d break all their rice bowls, they committed to keeping him out of the governor’s mansion. Hookers was the means to that end, but it wasn’t why Vitter lost.
John Bel Edwards is Louisiana’s status quo. That’s the point. Of course he’s a failure as governor. Louisiana’s status quo is a failure. We’re last or near-last in all those public policy metrics, but there are lots of people who profit off the bloated state government or the stupid boards and commissions who keep competition away from the businesses they regulate. Edwards opposes any reform to any of that stuff, and that’s why you have people who’ll enthusiastically support Donald Trump and will pull the lever for GOP candidates like John Kennedy, Mike Johnson and Steve Scalise yet haven’t voted Republican for governor since Jindal won big in 2011.
We fail to recognize this and we don’t deal with the implications of it, and not understanding it is why 2019 happened.
There are people out there, particularly the folks who are rightly wrapped around the axle about the 2020 election and the irregularities surrounding it in places like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona, who think Edwards won re-election over Eddie Rispone because he stole the election. They ascribe the regularities in, say, Georgia to Louisiana and they look at a close 2019 race and think “Ahhh, I’ve figured this out!”
But Edwards didn’t steal the 2019 election.
First of all, it’s far, far harder to steal an election in Louisiana than it is in Pennsylvania or Arizona. We don’t use mail-in ballots here, and the way we handle things relies on a closed-loop system which is pretty airtight. We do a whole lot better job of scrubbing voter rolls here than those states do – people freaked out over the 30,000 entries on the voter rolls in Orleans Parish that the LaToya Cantrell recall folks said were inaccurate, and that number would be a big problem if it turned out to be real, but that is NOTHING compared to the dead and moved-away people on the rolls in a place like Philadelphia or Detroit.
Second, here’s the ugly truth: Eddie Rispone, who ran one of the worst campaigns in modern American history for a winnable statewide office (we catalogued all the massive problems with that campaign in a series of posts right after it ended; find that here), lost that race because he got pounded by Edwards 57-43 in Jefferson Parish.
Jefferson is the most populous parish in the state. It’s also a place where Republicans, many of them ridiculous RINO’s but Republicans nonetheless, run everything. Jefferson votes Republican in pretty significant numbers. In 2020, Donald Trump beat Joe Biden 55-44 in Jefferson. Bill Cassidy got 56 percent of the vote in that same election. John Kennedy got 58 percent of the vote in Jefferson last year and Scalise got 72 percent.
Democrats aren’t going to rig an election in Jefferson Parish. And yet Edwards won 57-43 there.
That’s not cheating. What’s going on there is the massive underperformance of a Republican candidate. And to waste time worrying about a stolen election is not to address why you’re losing.
I mentioned Normand above. He was the sheriff in Jefferson before he had to resign under a cloud of scandal. While he was the sheriff, Normand did everything he could to screw Vitter out of a victory in 2015 – openly plotting against Vitter at a Metairie Road coffeeshop within earshot of bystanders, and when Vitter sent somebody to record his machinations Normand sent deputies out on a manhunt to arrest the man. Nobody bothered to report the truth about that fracas – the fact is, Normand violated the Vitter operative’s civil rights with that arrest. Instead, it was billed as Vitter “spying” on Normand.
Normand was a Jay Dardenne votary. He couldn’t deliver much in the way of votes for Dardenne, so he doubled down on his efforts and helped Edwards in the runoff. And in 2019, he spent the entire year on WWL’s airwaves shilling for Edwards and against Rispone.
Nobody seems to want to hold Newell Normand accountable for the damage he’s done. Instead we get tinfoil hat stuff about stolen elections.
Which is to say, they keep getting away with it because we waste our time looking at stupid things.
We’re starting Edwards’ last regular legislative session this week. It would be nice if, at long last, he didn’t get away with it anymore.