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Democrats' response to incidents cowardly, political

There’s nothing like leading from behind, as a number of Louisiana Democrats have demonstrated in the month since the party’s state Sen. Troy Brown racked up his second violence charge in well less than a year. Why belated remonstrations against his behavior only now have started to surface provides a lesson in partisan politics and absent leadership.

His initial arrest came last November concerning striking a woman apparently his mistress. He claimed then that he remembered nothing of the episode due to the after-effects of a car accident a quarter-century ago. Neither his legal difficulties nor his admission of cognitive impairment his Democrat colleagues then found troubling enough to conclude that he could not represent his constituents – as he had done already for four years, having just secured reelection – which would entail his resignation from office.

Then last month, not long after the marathon legislative sessions of 2016 had concluded, he reputedly went primal on his wife with family present, allegedly biting her. During the session, his Democrat colleagues, including Gov. John Bel Edwards and state party officials, self-righteously if not hypocritically found time to criticize a Republican state legislator who could not tell a joke to save his life that only served to objectify women. But after Brown’s second run-in with the law, once again they lost their voices.

Three weeks passed, and then out of nowhere Edwards became the first elected Democrat to call for Brown’s resignation. Suddenly it became cool for others to do so, and so state Rep. Helena Moreno and state Sen. JP Morrell, who style themselves as advocates for women’s issues, obliged shortly after Edwards’ announcement.

State party chairwoman state Sen. Karen Peterson could not go quite that far, issuing a rambling statement – apparently released as much as from the go-ahead issued by Edwards as from prodding by the Louisiana Republican Party – that did not call specifically for his resignation, and she noted represented only her opinion and not the party’s. The moral cowardice continues with state Democrats, who have remained absolutely mum on the controversy.

All of which leaves two fascinating questions. First, if the basis of the genuine and imitation calls for Brown’s resignation by Democrats was that his legal troubles made him unable to discharge satisfactorily the duties of his office, why does it take two strikes? According to Democrats’ reactions to the arrests, apparently a single charge of simple battery doesn’t impair you enough to make you ineffective (or the admission that you have cognitive difficulties), but double it up and now it’s troublesome. Their justification on this score, if ever revealed, should be priceless.

Yet even if there actually existed some principled reason that requires two slipups to declare open season, why then the three-week delay once reaching the repeated behavior threshold? Why didn’t Edwards give the go code shortly after Brown’s second arrest? What changed in three weeks that mutated from it being not worth Brown’s voluntary departure to the necessity of his doing that in the eyes of Edwards et. al.?

Simply and obviously, political considerations explain both. Last year, with Edwards ready to come into office and attempt to push the politically center-right state far to the left up against Republicans with firm control of the Legislature, Democrats would need every legislative vote they could get. Having a vacancy because they pushed one of their own out the door would rob them of a vote, or embittering that vote who likely then would become much less enthusiastic about following party dictates they saw as unacceptable, and off they went into three wise monkeys mode on the matter.

The second infraction made the silence even more voluminous, abetted by occasional jabs from the likes of the state GOP. But upcoming elections in Louisiana for Congress really drove the delayed reaction. Democrats have invested in a mythical Republican “war on women” as a narrative to scare up votes, and it wouldn’t do to have one more reminder of the invalidity of the idea with Brown’s antics left not condemned. In particular concerning the U.S. Senate race, with Edwards backing Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in an uphill battle against GOP Treas. John Kennedy – the first elected official who called for Brown to resign right after the second arrest – the festering could not continue.

Recognize Democrats’ reactions on policing one of their own for what these are – unprincipled, cowardly, and politically-driven. Better late than never, but those who finally spoke out also unmistakably are gutless and opportunistic, devoid of any real statesmanship or living up to the responsibilities of their respective offices.

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