Among the states most loyal to Republicans running for federal office is a place governed as though it were California or Massachusetts. We speak here of Louisiana, which has two Republican senators and five GOP House members out of six.
Louisiana voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump twice. It also delivered its electoral votes for Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush, twice.
Since 2009, in fact, there have been only two statewide races, state or federal, won by Democrats in Louisiana.
But those two, in 2015 and 2019, were won by current governor John Bel Edwards, a relative unknown who managed to convince a conservative state that he was an ideological compatriot despite a legislative voting record to the left of anyone in the Black Caucus.
Edwards’ leadership style is slightly less autocratic than that of Hugo Chavez or Mussolini. He’s the worst of all worlds, a product of his training. Edwards went to West Point and then served his four years in the Army as a rifle company commander. Then he left the military and went to law school, becoming a plaintiff attorney. From the Army, he learned to take pronouncements from on high and impose them on the grunts, and anyone dissenting earned himself a fast voyage to the stockade. Edwards never rose to a rank where competing constituencies had to be taken into account or leeway was given as to how to accomplish objectives.
And as a trial lawyer, he learned to threaten the worst possible consequences to those parties refusing to give him what he wants.
Those two formative experiences have combined to produce a hillbilly caudillo who’s created Louisiana as Venezuela North.
Edwards is an economic illiterate who believes, as all modern Democrats do, that wealth is the original property of government. He instituted the largest tax increase in Louisiana’s history, which has flatlined the state’s economy for six years running. Louisiana has run surpluses ever since while outmigration has become a full-on stampede.
So many Louisianans have departed for Texas that a new word to describe it, Texodus, was created. The rate calculator on U-Haul’s website gives a running daily testimony to the damage Edwards has done. It’s twice as expensive to rent a 10-foot truck in any of Louisiana’s major cities for transport to a Texas town than it is for the reverse trip.
And if the damage in ordinary time wasn’t bad enough, Edwards has latched onto COVID-19 with a vigor and passion bordering on monomania.
He locked Louisiana down harder than any state in the South when COVID first came on the scene, Louisiana’s case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths mounting to such an extent that on several occasions the Bayou State showed worse than any in the country. The lockdowns accomplished little, other than to destroy New Orleans’ tourist economy and trash the state’s quality of life.
Louisiana’s Republican-dominated legislature, which has been scandalously timid in checking Edwards since his inauguration — something which has a historic origin, as Louisiana’s governors have traditionally been given dictatorial deference by the leges — had enough in late summer last year. They used a provision in state law which allows a majority of either house to sign a petition voiding a declared state of emergency, and did just that.
And Edwards ignored it. He claimed the law enabling the petition was unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court overruled a Baton Rouge judge who, Pontius Pilate style, agreed with him in hopes of getting the resulting lawsuit off his docket. That case is still mired in hearings and motions.
Edwards has imposed mask mandates a diminishing number of Louisianans have bothered to follow. He attempted to close bars and imposed idiotic restrictions on restaurants. And now he’s attempting to out-Biden Joe Biden with vaccine mandates.
Specifically on schoolchildren.
Edwards signaled his intention to require every student in Louisiana’s schools to be vaccinated after the first of the year. That administrative rule will apply first to all students 16 and older, but as the FDA is expected to approve vaccinations for kids younger than 16 soon, the administrative rule will ratchet all the way down to pre-K.
And on Monday, the Health and Welfare Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives held a cacophonous hearing which led to an overwhelming, bipartisan, 13-2 vote rejecting Edwards’ rule. Even the Democrats on the committee voted 3-2, with three abstentions, to reject Edwards’ diktat.
This despite testimony from Dr. Joseph Kantor, the Anthony Fauci-esque figure who heads the state’s COVID response, belting out such gems as claiming the “best studies” show vaccine immunity to the virus as stronger than natural immunity. Kantor bemoaned the 18 Louisiana children who’ve died of COVID-19, before being forced to admit that 14 of them had severe comorbidities. He attacked activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the former U.S. attorney general and 1968 presidential candidate, for spreading “misinformation” when Kennedy testified at the hearing using Pfizer’s own data to show the dangers of the vaccines among minor children.
The hundreds of people in the committee room and in the overflow rooms were overwhelmingly, passionately opposed to the school vax mandate. Kantor played dumb when asked by legislators whether he recognized the mandate would cost Louisiana’s public school districts millions when parents respond by pulling their children out of the schools.
Did any of this make an impact on the governor? Hell, no. No sooner did the 13-2 vote go into the legislative record but Edwards issued a statement telling the leges where they could get off.
The Edwards administration said the vote can’t legally stop the governor from enacting the regulation.
Edwards “supports adding the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to the immunization schedule and, barring a recommendation from public health experts, his opinion would not change,” the governor’s spokesperson Christina Stephens said in a statement.
It’s a funny feeling, knowing that you live in a place where your elected legislators have no ability to check the abuses of power from your chief executive. Edwards won re-election in 2019 by a scant 40,000 votes while Republicans captured 68 of 105 House seats and 27 of the 39 spots in the state Senate, and yet he governs as though he won an Iraqi or Soviet election.
In a way, it’s admirable, or perhaps instructive. Louisiana’s Republicans, gearing up for the 2023 election cycle in which there doesn’t appear to be a Democrat with any chance of succeeding Edwards, are taking note and making plans to govern in an identical fashion.
Of course, when that happens, it will be considered scandalous. Undemocratic. Authoritarian. Dictatorial. Oppressive.
In the meantime, Louisiana has now demonstrated its first cases of the Omicron COVID variant, the one which is essentially a common cold. There are rumors Edwards will use it to reimpose his mask mandates and restrictions on public gatherings.
With the school vax mandate already in tow, and likely mired in court proceedings, it’ll go back to the legislature to rein Edwards in. Perhaps that will finally work, but probably not.
What we know is that a Democrat won’t refuse to exercise political power to the point of abuse and beyond. John Bel Edwards proves that in spades.
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