Edwards was barely elected over a misguided GOP gubernatorial candidate who was reluctant to do media interviews and relied on the advice of 24-year-old campaign consultants. He did not lead a unified party in the general election because of his unfortunate attacks on his GOP challenger in the primary election. Once again, Republican infighting and flawed campaign strategy allowed Edwards to win.
A bright spot in the election was the legislative victories. Republican voters surely hoped their legislators would stand firm against the liberal Democrat Governor. Incredibly, Edwards has faced almost zero opposition on every important matter.
He was able to pressure 23 Republican legislators to support his candidate for Speaker of the House. Immediately after his election, the new House Speaker was slated to be the guest of honor at a fundraiser hosted by radical leftist Mayor of New Orleans LaToya Cantrell. Certainly, GOP voters in Louisiana did not expect this type of “bi-partisan cooperation.”
Another disappointing result has been the lack of action from Republican legislators since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the last few months, Louisiana has been in an economic lockdown while other states have more aggressively opened their economies. For a state that was already last in the nation in economic growth, such a severe lockdown has been particularly harmful.
Prior to the pandemic, Louisiana was the only state in the nation to lose jobs over the previous year. Since the lockdown began, Louisiana has suffered the second highest percentage increase in unemployment claims. Yet, Governor Edwards kept the state on a 100% lockdown for two months. Since that time, the “Phase 1” reopening has been very anemic. Many restaurants and businesses cannot afford to reopen with only 25% of their customers allowed in their establishments.
Instead of demanding a quicker reopening and overturning the Governor’s unconstitutional executive orders, legislative Republicans have done nothing, even though it would only take a majority vote in one legislative body to rescind these measures. This acquiescence has been particularly disturbing since multiple rallies have been held in Baton Rouge and across the state demanding an end to the executive orders.
In other states, Republican legislators have fought back against Democratic Governors; however, in Louisiana, there has been complete silence and total cooperation. If legislative Republicans agree with Governor Edwards, they should switch parties and become Democrats.
After agreeing with the Governor’s draconian lockdown orders, GOP legislators are cooperating on the new budget. This massive economic hit to the state’s budget should have generated proposals for significant budget reform. It is the perfect time to slash unnecessary state spending. Instead, the new budget plan being offered by the GOP is almost identical to the one being proposed by the Governor.
The Governor and House Republican leaders are not recommending deep cuts to state services. While a budget shortfall of at least $1 billion is expected, state officials want to continue with almost the same level of outrageous spending. The House Appropriations Committee approved a budget that does not include many spending reductions because it is balanced with a federal bailout of $1.2 billion and a $90 million infusion from the state’s “rainy day fund.”
There is so much budget agreement between the GOP and the Governor that State Representative Gary Carter (D-New Orleans) called it “good news.” In fact, he gushed that he was “just so pleased.” The Governor’s top aide, Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, said the two sides “agree on a lot more than we disagree.”
With the oil industry on the ropes and the tourism and hospitality industry facing a long road to recovery, Louisiana’s budget will be impacted for years to come. Instead of agreeing to a standstill budget, Republican legislators should have used the opportunity of this crisis to demand real spending reform and significant budget reductions. However, such measures would require courageous action and taking on Governor Edwards and, on this issue, and so many others there is no appetite among the Republican legislators to engage in a political fight.
Thus, business, as usual, prevails in Louisiana, a state that will remain last until politics finally changes in Baton Rouge.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org