Campbell quest fading through unconvincing actions
If not a polling artifact that Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell has seen a major erosion of support in the last month, maybe it’s due to a campaign approaching the erratic that reveals a Manichean worldview making Louisianans uneasy.
The latest independent poll of the U.S. Senate race that Campbell contests showed his support nearly halved from less than a month previous, falling from second to fourth place. Possibly that result comes from him having served as a Democrat placeholder for respondents not paying a lot of attention to the race prior to Labor Day who have decided to get more serious and thus now list themselves as undecided.
But that’s not a strong argument, for Campbell doesn’t have much name recognition outside of north Louisiana. Rather, prospective voters could be tuning in to his bombastic political style that leave them scratching their heads over contradictory signals and increasingly reluctant to back him given the plethora of alternatives.
The best summation of Campbell’s worldview is “big government good; big business bad,” which played well decades ago when he first started in politics given Louisiana’s populist ethos at the time. Yet changing times not only have eroded that facet of the state’s political culture, it has altered it in ways that can punish Campbell’s candidacy.
For example, when asked about homeland security measures, he went beyond what Republican presidential nominee and big businessman Donald Trump said that government ought to engage in, profiling of people entering the country, granting he could go for surveillance of American citizens on top of that. That misses the populist wave that Trump has adroitly accessed: a majority of Americans, even Democrats, disapprove narrowly of that tactic even as a majority accept profiling as a solution to terrorism. Yet simultaneously he rejects the view of Trump to build a border wall; however, this is consistent with his big government approach, claiming a cheaper solution increases border security and information gathering and analysis.
And as another example of Campbell’s comfort with government control over people’s lives, also unique among the major candidates for Senate some days prior to that admission at a candidate forum he announced the federal government ought to have license to intrusively regulate industry on the basis of alleged anthropogenic significant climate change. This not only sets him at odds with fellow Democrat candidate lawyer Caroline Fayard, who Democrat elites such as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu more tied to the national party support, but also with his primary political benefactor in this campaign Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, neither of whom think anthropogenic activities significantly alter climate. This matters in a state very disproportionately invested in energy extraction production, an industry that would bear the brunt of regulatory costs.
This policy prescription demanding more regulation dovetails with his animus towards business interests, which he long has maintained collectively act to shortchange most of the citizenry. But it also induces whiplash with potential supporters. As the Louisiana electorate has made the gradual transition away from liberal populism, that insists on the necessity that government intervene to spread the wealth and power, to conservative populism, that identifies government as an ally of special interests wishing to acquire power and privilege, it may applaud tougher security measures, but not at the expense of having government peek into your life. It may even think that climate change exists, but that government has no business in slapping draconian regulations on industry as a result.
However, the most bizarre action out of his campaign came when he released his tax returns for the past three years and called upon other candidates to do the same. Perhaps he thought he could make himself look relatively more transparent and by contrast his opposition who don’t follow suit as having something to hide – even though most already have to give broad disclosures of their incomes, plus net worth and investments that Campbell discloses also as part of his PSC gig.
Whatever incremental gains he thought his candidacy could gain by this became completely undermined by this act. Because the returns make clear, even as Campbell routinely rails against moneyed interests, that he’s one of them. His business interests are so vast and complex that his returns, well over 100 pages each, serve as advertisements for tax simplification and rich men’s problems entirely divorced from the experiences of the mass public, much less the disadvantaged. Most jarringly, he earns much income from extensive oil and gas production, an industry he implies must suffer greater regulation if the country recognizes the looming problems of anthropogenic significant climate change.
From this he emerges as a questionable spokesman for the common man, seeming to have little in the way of the same interests with the middle class, a majority of whom remain suspicions of government intrusiveness into their lives and earnings. That doesn’t mean he can’t attempt to act at its spokesman, but, when compared to an opponent like GOP Rep. John Fleming who also bootstrapped his way from modest means to wealth, Fleming’s message that limited government can help others get to where he got seems a lot more credible.
Thus, Campbell presents multiple issue preferences to turn off enough groups of voters, who find more convincing articulators of similar positions from among the other candidates. It’s a sign of the fading power of liberal populism in Louisiana that looks set to dump Campbell’s candidacy into the ash heap of history.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 11:35