Possibly, Probably…Maybe Not
by Kenneth Cooper
And so it begins, John Bel Edwards, term #2, freshly re-elected as governor to our perpetually failing state. Half the voters didn’t want him. A huge African American turnout provided the margin of victory. Finally freed from the calamity known as Jindal, what will he do with this second term? For most of term #1, Jindal’s bad policies poisoned him like the fumes from Cancer Alley, stained his aspirations like the Gulf after the BP oil spill. Now re-elected, Edwards gets to celebrate a clean slate.
Then it rained on his parade. His inauguration was a scene of raindrops, umbrellas, and Republican tears falling to the ground. 19 guns fired in salute, while the governor poured promises into the microphone, or to be more accurate, hopes and vows — hopes and vows about improving early childhood education, increasing teacher pay, developing actual workforce development, passing a higher minimum wage, and overcoming partisanship and dysfunction. Most people were probably hoping to get an early start to the LSU championship game later that night.
On the other side of the swamp, Republicans were roiled in dysfunction. A new House Speaker was needed to replace the governor’s outgoing hater, one who could lead their almost super majority in obstruction of the highest order. They went about it abjectly. It, the dysfunction, ended up spilling out of the legislative halls and onto the front pages of newspapers and websites, culminating in the more conservative members not getting the new hater they wanted, instead being forced to usher in a hater-lite, a Speaker who might team-up with the governor and bring back functional things like bipartisanship, compromise, and the Revenue Estimating Conference.
Meanwhile, question #1 on not enough people’s minds is who will replace John White, the outgoing Education Superintendent. He resigned, possibly because he was tired of beefing with the governor, or because he was tired of living off of month to month contracts since BESE could never come together and make an honest Superintendent out of him. Under White, the D.O.E. incorporated national trends like charter schools and Common Core, while using standardized tests as a basis for paying teachers and evaluating students. That just went over swimmingly with some parents, teachers, and cronies dependent on local control and corruption. Now, post-election, Edwards might have a say in determining the new Superintendent and whether statewide education moves backwards or forwards, depending on your perspective. Whatever happens it’ll depend on how much sway he has over his non-appointees to BESE, since BESE has the final say.
And what of the black voters who saved him? Black people have a history of giving their votes away to Democrats with no pre-conditions, and this election was no different. Edwards got 99% of the black vote. You could argue there was no choice. It was either vote for Edwards or spend the next 4 years listening to Rispone blow racist dog whistles from parish to parish. Apparently under Edwards black people can look forward to decreases in mass incarceration and increases in police rights to abuse their authority. It makes for a lovely contradiction that mirrors the national Democrat Party.
Um, that was kind of a downer, but Edwards was clearly the best choice for the state. He still has enough bipartisan appeal to elicit as much love as hate, enough sense to dabble in moderation, and come this spring he’ll see if has enough appeal to elicit any cooperation from a Republican majority with veto proof power in one body and 2-3 votes away from having it in the other. If you’re a fan of partisanship and dysfunction, then there’s one word that define their prospects. That word is promising.