Two years ago, Republican John Fleming, a Minden-area physician and the owner of a string of Subway sandwich restaurants, narrowly beat Caddo Parish District Attorney Paul Carmouche, a Democrat, to become the next Congressman representing Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District. Fleming won the seat by a margin of only 356 votes.
Although Fleming’s victory ensured the seat remained Republican, the nail-bittingly close victory demonstrated the district’s true competitiveness, which is often overlooked by political pundits and prognosticators. Indeed, some have suggested that Carmouche could have won the seat, had his campaign not taken such an aggressively conservative stance on social issues, a stance that likely alienated both libertarians and progressives.
After two years, Congressman Fleming has already established a record and a reputation as a far right ideologue. He quickly jumped aboard Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s TEA Party Caucus. He believes that the President of the United States is “undermining this country’s national defense, on purpose.” Just last week, Fleming made national news after he said this to the Republican Women of Bossier:
We have two competing world views here and there is no way we can reach across the aisle. One is going to have to win. We are either going to go down the socialist road and become like Western Europe and create, I guess really a godless society. Or we’re going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties and that we remain a Christian nation. So we’re going to have to win that battle; we’re going to have to solve that argument before we can once again reach across and work together on things.
Apparently, Representative Fleming believes in freedom of speech but doesn’t hold much esteem for freedom of religion. To borrow a phrase from Governor Bobby Jindal, this isn’t just politics; it’s “spiritual warfare.” Fleming refuses to even cooperate with people “across the aisle” until the Christian right decisively wins the “battle” and, once and for all, ensures that America remains “a Christian nation.” Unless and until we do that, there’s only one other alternative in Fleming’s mind: socialism and godlessness.
It was a bone-headed but revealing remark, particularly from a Congressman who beat his Democratic opponent by only 356 votes. Clearly, Representative Fleming believes he can coast to reelection by mimicking Glenn Beck and brandishing his own religious bonafides.
There’s only one problem.
This year, Fleming’s Democratic opponent is a well-respected and well-known Methodist minister, David Melville. Reverend Melville, incidentally, is married to the sister of former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, a Republican, and he’s spent the last few months building a broad-based, bipartisan campaign, a campaign that champions the notion of reaching “across the aisle.”
Obviously, Representative Fleming doesn’t believe in Reverend Melville’s idea of working across the aisle. Right before he dove into a rant about socialism and godlessness, Fleming said this:
He’s (Melville’s) going to say, you know, we need to get along better. We need to work and we need to stretch across the aisle. We have two competing world views here, and there is no way that we’re going to reach across the aisle. One is going to have to win. We’re either going to have to go down the socialist road and become like Western Europe and create, I guess, really a godless society, an atheist society, or we’re going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties, and we remain a Christian nation.
Two competing world views: The Republican TEA party enthusiast who believes that our country should fight an ideological civil war along religious lines in order to ensure that we “remain a Christian nation” and, of course, the Methodist minister who, because he believes in cooperation and working together, is actually promoting “socialism” and “godlessness.”
Thankfully, unlike Fleming, Melville isn’t questioning anyone else’s patriotism or religion. As my friends at The Daily Kingfish point out, Melville’s running a positive campaign. To be sure, he recognizes that challenging Fleming is no easy task. But it’s certainly made easier every time Fleming shoots himself in the foot and exposes himself as a divisive, contentious ideologue who would rather engage in cultural and spiritual warfare than actually represent the best interests of the people of the Great State of Louisiana.
I, for one, believe that David Melville can win this election, and I hope that his campaign can remain positive, though they shouldn’t be afraid of being critical. Voters should be reminded of the decision that they face, and they should understand the clear differences between Melville and Fleming. Pointing out those differences will only work to Melville’s advantage.