Next Monday, our once-great hope for the future of Louisiana, the diminutive, motor-mouthed wunderkind and former presidential candidate, the man once praised across the country as the future of the Republican Party, will huddle with his young family, will shake the hands of several of his once-upon-a-time enemies, will listen as another man repeats the same oath he had twice recited proudly, without a stutter, and then will climb into a dark Chevrolet SUV and leave the grounds of the Louisiana Capitol. His office has already been packed; the strange portrait that he displayed at its entrance has been returned to the man who commissioned it. The moving vans have already departed from the Governor’s Mansion.

Bobby Jindal’s new home is only a few miles away, but it is still a world apart.

Louisiana’s next governor, John Bel Edwards, is inheriting a total mess. Nothing will be easy for him. After eight years of blind allegiance to Grover Norquist and his reflexively anti-tax agenda, Bobby Jindal is leaving John Bel Edwards with a state suffering from a deficit of more than $1.9 billion, an education system that ranks 49th out of 50 in the nation, billions in contractual agreements with manufacturing facilities that have yet to materialize, deteriorating and dangerous infrastructure, and a health care system on the brink of collapse.

Jindal detested the notion of competent government. He privatized anything and everything he could, even if it meant that taxpayers would  ultimately be forced to pay more for the same services they had once received through their own government. He bragged about firing 30,000 public employees, equivalent to the size of the entire workforce of Alexandria or Monroe, two of the state’s largest cities. He considers this to be one of his greatest accomplishments: Firing tens of thousands of public servants from their jobs.

When he had opportunities to leverage outside federal funding, Bobby Jindal squandered them: Capriciously rejecting hundreds of millions of dollars in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and in projects intended to expand rural broadband access and develop light rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He obstinately rejected more than a billion dollars to expand health insurance to more than 250,000 of his constituents.

Bobby Jindal didn’t need to do any of this. When he took office, he inherited a $1 billion surplus. There was never an existential need for the state of Louisiana to fire tens of thousands of people.

But Jindal was never a governor. Governors understand they have a fiduciary duty to the people of their state. No, instead, Bobby Jindal was a self-promotional, political arsonist. I hope the Edwards family changes the locks and replaces the batteries in the smoke detectors at the Governor’s Mansion.

I also hope that the error of this type of absurd, fractious, and unproductive partisanship in Louisiana will end on Jan. 11, 2016. We have been plagued and victimized too long by those who care more about the theater of politics than the responsibilities of public service.

John Bel Edwards won in a landslide, against all odds, and he deserves the same deference and respect with which the vast majority of the legislature treated Gov. Jindal. Immediately after he was elected- but before he officially took office, Edwards made it abundantly clear that he intended on forming a coalition government. He hired outgoing Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a Republican and one of his challengers in the gubernatorial election, as Commissioner of Administration. It is a clear sign that this pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Democrat intends on governing from the middle, which is wise.

We are facing some significant problems, and if we’re to be serious about fixing these problems, we must be in this together.

And that is why I am so disappointed by my friend, State Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria, and his aggressive attempt to break with tradition and, for purely partisan reasons, make the very first thing on the very first day of John Bel Edwards’s administration into a silly showdown between Walt Leger, a Democrat supported by Gov. Edwards, and Cameron Henry, a Republican who once worked for Congressman Steve Scalise, in the race for Speaker of the House.

Rep. Harris should strive to kickstart the new session in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation and not in an act of vapid political scheming and bad theatrics.

With John Bel’s landslide victory, we also deserve a legislature willing to negotiate, particularly because so many of them are responsible for the calamity we currently face. Leger’s election would send a strong signal to voters that the government is both functioning and inclusive.

Rep. Harris attempted to explain to me that he merely wanted to ensure an “independent” legislature. He neglected to mention that Republican Bobby Jindal first appointed a Republican Speaker in a majority Democratic chamber. This is nothing new, and Walt Leger, for what it’s worth, is decidedly mainstream and uncontroversial.

I understand and respect that Lance Harris is a man of strong ideological beliefs and loyal partisanship, but I believe in effective pragmatism and the humility of serving in small ways in order to help others accomplish big things.

Long story short: Drop the stupid fight over Walt and focus instead on the real issues. After eight years of Jindal, we don’t have any more patience for these staged partisan showdowns, and Rep. Harris, in particular, could be a much more effective representative of my friends and family members in Alexandria if he worked harder on solving the budget crisis than promoting his political fraternity and brand.

No offense, sir- still respect and admire you. But that’s all theater, and there is a big difference between being an actor and a man of action.

Louisiana needs to grow up.

The truth is, we’ve never left you, but the wild days aren’t over quite yet.

13 thoughts

  1. In the spirit of CB Forgotston, Lamar stated a significant truth, ‘With John Bel’s landslide victory, we also deserve a legislature willing to negotiate, particularly because so many of them are responsible for the calamity with which we currently face.’ The bright light of truth now needs to be shone on the Legislature as our Governor Elect has displayed his flashlight.

  2. As ever, Lamar, a cogent and well-phrased analysis. As you said, jindal was never our governor, he was a tool of the ALEC/Grover Norquist cabal and totally dedicated only to his own agenda. He has left the state in ruins with a rank of dead last in quality of life according to the National Policy Research Council’s report The Gold Guide. And yet he preens over his legacy – delusional as ever.

    Thank you for yet another history lesson (with a little nod to Eva Peron) – but perhaps shedding a tear or two for our state is in order, as we move forward with hope for something better. We look to you to keep us informed, to hold elected officials accountable, and always to speak truth to power. And stupid.

  3. If there is any thought among the Republcans of the House to be the Caucus of No, they will learn a lesson of regret come the next election. Louisiana doesn’t need Washington partisan politics as we are drowning in a fiscal ocean, one that many of them are directly responsible for.

  4. It was already like this before. He just picked where every other has always left it. The same if not worse will be there when John Bel leaves. This is Louisiana. We have always the lowest man on the totem pole and this will remain as long as a “good ole boy” system is in place.

    1. Jud, I have to respectfully disagree with your glossy, pessimistic view of Louisiana and it’s politics. Conservatives, lead by jindal and ALEC, implemented many significant changes over the last eight years. Many of Louisiana’s citizens, especially state workers, teachers and the poor, are worse off because of his heartless reign of error. While Louisiana’s standing in many rating systems didn’t change much, that doesn’t mean he didn’t change things for the worse. John Bel has to first dig the state out of the gigantic hole jindal has left it in. Then maybe he will be able to make some improvements. PS: The “Good Ole Boys” had nothing to do with jindal’s changes.

  5. then will climb into a dark Chevrolet SUV

    In the spirit of the hard times Louisiana is in, couldn’t lil Bobby be driven away in, oh, say, maybe a Prius? Let him experience a taste of what other folks have had to do.

  6. You need to state the entire truth about the 1.9B deficit. It is projected because of the oil industry… all we ask for is the truth in its entirety. Not as you see it.

  7. Let’s be honest and look at the numbers. Jindal started with a billion dollar surplus and then every year afterwards, ran a mid year deficit. Even in the midst of the oil and gas boom. When you have an oil and gas boom and STILL run a deficit, there is an inherent problem. The turndown in the oil business didn’t happen until last year.

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