Search This Blog


Elective superintendent bad on historical, policy grounds

Having both an elected state superintendent of education and a mostly-elected board overseeing education remains a bad idea that Louisiana got rid of only a little more than a quarter-century ago.

Two bills by state Rep. Joe Harrison would resurrect the notion, which would make Louisiana the only state in the union to have both an elected top education official and state school board with elected members. The Constitution actually provides for an elective superintendent, but in the Legislature’s wisdom in 1986 it took advantage of the provision to make the office appointive by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education staring in 1988. Harrison’s bills would amend away that possibility or reverse the previous statute.

While the movement for states to fragment executive power swept the country in the latter part of the nineteenth century, in Louisiana it went into overdrive, especially as inculcated into the 1921 Constitution, which the 1974 version was supposed to correct. Even the 1921 version had an appointive superintendent by a board constituted just like today’s BESE, but in short order that was amended to accommodate the political popularity of long-time existing superintendent T.H. Harris, and the office remained elective until the idea was transferred to the 1974 version, a period which featured plenty of pro-segregation sentiment, after Harris failed reelection in the reform 1940 election use often as a stepping stone for (failed) attempts at higher office, and oversight of a school system that developed into one of the, if not the, worst in the country.


King Ben asks to deny right of self-government by some

It’s hard to tell whether state Sen. Ben Nevers is an automaton ideologue, or simply slept through his history and civics classes in school, by his sponsoring of the half-baked SB 674.

The bill would place a moratorium on any legal petition for incorporation in Louisiana for two years while the issue gets studied. The process it seeks to investigate requires that a formal petition be forwarded to the state identifying incorporation leaders, then they have an unlimited amount of time to gather signatures of at least 25 percent of electors in the area defined where if successful brings the matter to a vote at the next scheduled election. A majority of affirmative electors creates the new municipality.

The bill is worded so that if it were to pass, it would negate the current effort to incorporate much of the unincorporated area of East Baton Rouge Parish. The area under consideration, provisionally named St. George, disproportionately generates revenues for the combined City of Baton Rouge/East Baton Rouge Parish, which has sent howls of protest from some elements of Baton Rouge. Nevers has suggested that one outcome of his legislation would be to change the process to give non-residents of the area under consideration power to decide on the issue.


Assessing McAllister misstep requires sound judgment

That didn’t take long for Washington to corrupt, in the case of Rep. Vance McAllister who was recorded in a silent tête-à-tête with a female, now former, staffer. If nothing else, in assessing the political impact the episode has on his future will provide another opportunity to put into context how transgressions of this nature become politicized and exposes the intellectual poverty of arguments about them from the political left.

While there are a number of fascinating peripheral questions here (who happened onto this? who forwarded it to the Ouachita Citizen? why did this happen three months after the incident’s recording?), the very central one is about what impact this has on McAllister’s political future. Not long after the story broke, McAllister issued a public apology for this minor episode of infidelity to family, supporters, and constituents, and whether this encourages somebody to run against him on the basis that you have to get somebody in there who can resist the temptations of Babylon remains to be seen.

To understand the effect on his political career, it’s useful to compare the most consequential sex scandal in American history, that of Pres. Bill Clinton, and the most recent consequential (apparent) one in Louisiana, that of Sen. David Vitter. Clinton, despite denials for months that launched a public investigation costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, was demonstrated using physical evidence to have engaged in extensive sexual activity with a White House intern. In doing so, Clinton was held in contempt by a federal court for lack of candor in his testimony, and he later admitted to the special prosecutor in the case that he knowingly given inaccurate answers under oath, which led to his surrendering of his law license. He issued an apology to the public, which he later acknowledged lacked needed contrition.


Cassidy win banks upon erosion of populist culture

When asked about the base assumption on which the Rep. Bill Cassidy campaign to oust incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu was constructed, a campaign official declared it was that the Louisiana electorate increasingly was moving towards a “post-pork paradigm.” That’s one manifestation of the larger theoretical construct that bears scrutiny, and which if gauged correctly will go a long ways towards the Republican sending the Democrat packing.

This sentiment implicitly recognizes the populist foundation to the Louisiana political culture, which assigns government an outsized role. Rather than merely be an instrument by which conflicts over power are resolved and liberty protected through its limitation, populism also assigns to government the task of redistribution, either through direct provision (such as jobs in government-owned providers) or indirectly (through policies that differentially take the peoples’ resources, shuffles them, and returns). By taking on this function, populism also empowers individual politicians relative to the people, for the people are trained to see politicians as arbiters of largesse, the relevant forces they must depend upon to get back as many goodies as they can for the amount of money government absconded with from them. This devalues policy and ideology as factors by which politicians are to be judged, shunted to the background and obscuring that fact that ideology serves as the precursor to distributive decisions made by government: ideology determines how much government will take, and thereby regulates how much discretion and importance is awarded to politicians when funds are returned in their various forms.

In other words, Cassidy banks on the belief that Louisiana’s public has become more aware of and willing to think in ideological terms in evaluation of candidates. He has good reason to do so. In the last 15 years, improvement in education has created a new generation of residents better able as a whole to think critically than any before. However, their number are relatively small, but supplemented in the last several years from the first significant in-migration to the state plus the hurricane disasters diaspora happening simultaneously that has, to put it bluntly, also led to a population less wedded to the state’s populist political culture that deemphasized thinking ideologically and proportionally now is more than ever capable of doing so. Finally, the information explosion and mushrooming accessibility of it of the past two decades has made it less costly for the public to obtain information about politics that bypasses politicians, rendering elected officials less useful and less able to foster dependency of the citizenry on them.


Poll shows desperation for Landrieu, hope for Vitter, Jindal

It’s now Rep. Bill Cassidy’s 2014 Senate race to lose, Sen. David Vitter’s governor’s race to begin to consolidate upon, and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s restoration of political capital to achieve, according to a semi-annual poll put out there by one of Louisiana’s major Republican activists.

Lane Grigsby’s exercise of every six months or so this time brought in a new firm and even more in-depth information (from a well-constructed sample although a bit on the small side) that should hearten but worry Cassidy. The Republican challenging incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu should gain morale because, in a question about the Senate vote this fall, a generic GOP candidate topped 40 percent, over 6 points better than a generic Democrat. It got better when a question asking about Landrieu reelection over 56 percent said they definitely would pass on her, and her job approval was disapproved by 53 percent. Further, in a parsing of all four announced candidates, he drew 26 percent while Landrieu got only 39.

Providing context, while almost all respondents could rate Landrieu, less than half could do so for Cassidy, and of those who did two-thirds, or about a quarter of all, rated him favorably. This means he has tremendous room to grow in support and capture a good bit of the nearly 30 percent of the undecided segment out there. By contrast, Landrieu has little room to improve.