Don’t wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.
– Mark Twain
Louisiana’s Second Congressional District is unusual among its peer districts in the state, but hardly unusual in any other respect. The Second is the one that was explicitly drawn up to serve one, and only one, purpose — namely, to ensure that one of Louisiana’s six congressional districts would be represented by someone of an African-American ethnic persuasion. The district, which is based in New Orleans but snakes its way up the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge and nestles into the slums of the northern part of that city, is 61 percent black. Without carving North Baton Rouge away from the Sixth Congressional District, there was no other way for a New Orleans–based House district to fulfill the majority-minority ambitions of the Louisiana legislature in its 2011 redistricting plan.
Some 63 percent of the district’s voters are registered Democrats, while only 11.8 percent are Republicans. Only once in recent memory has a Republican held the Second’s congressional seat — that was the two-year interregnum when Joseph Cao pulled off a miracle upset over then-jailbound Democrat incumbent “Dollar” Bill Jefferson in 2008, only to be shellacked by Cedric Richmond two years later.
Richmond held the seat for a decade, but shortly after winning reelection last year he vacated the seat to join the Biden administration. Richmond’s record in politics contains a long string of questionable behavior — for example, having his law license suspended for running for an office while living outside of its district boundaries, and getting into a nasty drunken bar fight over the use of a pool table while a member of the Louisiana Legislature. That rowdy history didn’t disqualify him from holding the title of chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and in his new position as head of something called the Office of Public Engagement Richmond was said to be in charge of providing outreach to Republicans.
This he was qualified to do because Richmond, who had been the star player on the Democrats’ congressional baseball team, had a friendship with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, whose suburban New Orleans district lay just next door to Richmond’s.
Of course, that outreach has been so aggressive that Richmond is now vigorously boasting that Biden will embark upon a program of providing reparations for slavery without the participation of Congress.
This is what comes out of the Second Congressional District of Louisiana.
You would not expect such a place to produce much in the way of political inspiration from the race to replace Richmond, and by and large it lived down perfectly to expectations. The race is now in a runoff between a pair of committed leftists currently plying their trade in the Louisiana Senate — Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson, the latter being the same Karen Carter Peterson who formerly doubled as the chair of the Louisiana Democrat Party.
Peterson also made news somewhat recently for having been busted for trespassing at a Baton Rouge casino from which she had been banned, owing to a self-admitted gambling addiction and voluntarily placing herself on a blacklist.
Other intemperate antics of hers include making kinetic warfare upon a birthday cake for a state legislator because it was humorously decorated to resemble a bikini-clad female, and dropping F-bombs and other abusive language on a Republican female state representative inside the House chamber while that body was in session. Peterson and other members of the Senate’s Democrat delegation were there observing (not very quietly) the House’s activities, and when Rep. Dodie Horton, a Republican from Bossier Parish, asked Peterson to pipe down so she could hear the debate on a bill she would be voting on, Peterson unloaded on her with an admonition to “Shut the f**k up” to the shock of all within audible range.
Not to mention the hilarious gaffes on Twitter, like being bamboozled by satire posts from the National Report.
That this woman is within one successful election night of becoming one of our 435 congressional representatives is remarkable — and not in a fortunate way.
But for a brief time, the special election in the Second District was not without a glimmer of hope for mankind. Because while Carter and Peterson were expected to be the headliners, and another typical Democrat candidate, a Baton Rouge race-hustler and online bomb-thrower named Gary Chambers whose personal history included such highlights as getting himself arrested at Baton Rouge Metro Council meetings and being punched out by another “activist” at a Black Lives Matter protest over the allegation that Chambers had embezzled shakedown money intended for the family of Alton Sterling, there was also Claston Bernard.
Bernard, a Jamaican immigrant and small businessman — he owns a building-inspections firm — is a Republican. He’s an author whose book Outcast: No Room at the Table for Conservative Blacks in Black America is an excellent read, and he has something else in his history. Bernard was an All-American decathlete at LSU who competed for Jamaica in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics.
This column contains some advice for Claston Bernard: be the pig.
Against three hacks with personal histories indicating zero accomplishments of any kind away from politics, Claston Bernard managed 10 percent. Chambers, who pulled only 26 percent in a two-way race for a North Baton Rouge state Senate seat in 2019, managed 21 percent — a feat made possible in part by an endorsement from the New Orleans transvestite rap artist Big Freedia and another from the faux-black online provocateur Shaun “Talcum X” King.
Chambers and Peterson, whose most important endorsement came from Stacey Abrams, ran on the exact same message of unbridled leftist lunacy. She barely edged him out of the runoff, finishing with 23 percent. Carter, with Richmond’s endorsement and that of most of the state’s Democrat public officials, led the primary with 36 percent. Another 10 percent was split among oodles of minor candidates.
What this comes down to is that Claston Bernard might actually hold the cards with respect to whether Carter or Peterson end up in Congress.
He has said he won’t endorse. Morally, he shouldn’t. While Troy Carter doesn’t have a personal history as obnoxious and disqualifying as Peterson — he’s a garden-variety urban Democrat political hack — there is no reason to think he’s a better vote than Karen Carter Peterson. For the 2016–19 four-year legislative term, Carter’s scorecard rating by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry was 19 percent; Peterson’s was 15 percent.
They’re both horrible. Neither belongs in the House. And while Peterson is considerably more embarrassing than Carter, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing from a conservative or Republican perspective. Voters, whether in the Second District or elsewhere in the state, who get their fill of her antics will see her as the embodiment of Democrat politics and be motivated to reject it, she’ll be a great boon to fundraising for the Louisiana Republican Party, and she’ll be a nonstop embarrassment to Democrats across the state and elsewhere.
That’s a lot more useful than Troy Carter would be. Establishing a pain point for the public at the expense of the other party is great fun.
But because Peterson and Chambers, who is rumored to be in line for a job on Peterson’s staff in return for his endorsement of her, combined for 44 percent and Carter only had 36 percent, Bernard not endorsing in the race probably means Peterson can win.
Carter needs Bernard’s endorsement. In fact, he almost assuredly has to have it.
Which is why this column contains some advice for Claston Bernard, which is this: be the pig.
Politics is unquestionably the act of wrestling with pigs. Normal, good people know this, which is why normal, good people generally stay away from politics. Bernard, who is among the most passionate of black conservatives and should become a rising star on the political scene in Louisiana and elsewhere despite the disappointment of Saturday’s results, is an exception to that rule. He ran for the right reasons, to offer an alternative to the destructive and stupid policies the other major candidates in the Second District race were spewing.
But in a wrestling match with pigs, the good people are the miserable ones. And since Bernard is in the mud, and since he’s in a position to like it, he ought to be the pig.
Morally and ideologically, neither one of the hacks in the Second District runoff deserves his endorsement, but the endorsement itself holds weight as to the outcome of the race.
So he ought to jack these two Democrats up for as much as he can get out of them in return for his support or abstinence.
If Carter needs Bernard’s endorsement, then Carter’s donors ought to kick in to pay off whatever campaign debt Bernard has. Of course, Bernard wouldn’t be the one making that shakedown, but those kinds of things happen all the time. And if Bernard has pet projects or friends who might benefit from patronage Carter could provide, then by damn those dreams ought to be made true.
But if Carter isn’t willing to play ball, then Bernard ought to absolutely offer his support — or even his abstinence from the runoff — to Peterson under the same conditions.
And everybody ought to know that in this brief shining moment it was Democrats who got shaken down by Republicans and not the other way around.
Now, Bernard didn’t get Scalise’s support in the race. That might not have made a difference in the outcome, but it’s a bit of a sore point. Scalise’s friendship with Richmond was a factor, as Richmond backed Carter. Bernard’s ascension on the ticket would likely have come at Carter’s expense. But Scalise also has a long-standing feud of sorts with Peterson, owing to the latter’s joining in on the false and scurrilous accusation several years back that Scalise had trafficked with David Duke supporters and other white supremacists. Richmond stood up for Scalise then, which helped to tamp down the artificial furor that resulted.
So if Bernard were to help Peterson, by commission or omission, it might be a bad look for Scalise. But that’s a reason why Scalise ought to be motivated to broker a shakedown of Carter, perhaps with Richmond’s help.
What we’re discussing here is the kind of thing that is never done by Republicans. And that’s the fault of Republicans. It represents a willingness to stop being the Washington Generals and start being the Harlem Globetrotters.
It means getting dirty. It means being the pig. In dealings with Democrats, the GOP is never the pig. It’s the idiot who decided to get in the mud with the swine.
And that should stop. Because unfortunately, we no longer have the option to take Twain’s advice.