The uncharted waters that the Republican Party
encounters with businessman Donald Trump
as its presidential nominee will have an impact on Louisiana races down the
No major party ever has nominated someone without
any experience in government office. All without any elective experience, or
appointive experience to the executive or judicial branches at the state or
federal level, served in high-ranking military positions. Even the least
politically-experienced nominee, newspaper publisher Horace Greeley, served a
few months in Congress almost a quarter of a century before receiving his
nomination by the Democrats.
Trump’s success largely comes from frustration
that many Republican voters have from Democrats in office who, with increasing
success and brazenness, have transformed the country away from the fundamental
principles behind its founding, and with Republicans officeholders seemingly
unwilling to stand athwart of this sellout. Seen foremost by many as a
successful businessman whose blunt style and win-at-all-costs attitude,
reinforced by his celebrity status, this ultimate outsider status gave him
cachet as someone so alien to current officeholders who themselves seem so
alienated from the many that he has the greatest capacity to disrupt a system
increasingly seen as detached from the people, if not corrupt.
Louisiana increasingly grapples with its ability to
offer capital punishment and its policy-makers debate the death penalty’s
efficacy, to the point that even some
past supporters of it now question it. Yet the data used to argue against it
discount the restorative power of the penalty, a salutary feature of it
illustrated by a recent, if unfortunate, event in the state.
Over the past couple of years, executions
nationwide have slowed to a turtle’s pace as ideological opponents of capital
punishment have influenced makers of the drugs used in the lethal chemical injection
process not to make these available to states wishing to carrying out
sentences. This reduced a rate already at a crawl as over the decades
increasingly aggressive appealing of sentences has grown, although that has
received a boost from technological innovations, for example which make DNA
testing for potential innocence more available. And that has resulted in some
reversals, which makes that exercise worthwhile and less likely to happen in
the future as more criminal trials access this technology from the start,
leading to fewer future mistakes.
But this desirable dragging out of sentence
commission produces an unfortunate side effect, now compounded by the undesirable
sitzkreig strategy of ideological
opponents, of making capital punishment less effective as a deterrent. Research
indicates that the death
penalty saves lives by deterring murders, but only when it has consistent
application. The start-and-stop, uncertain nature that it has taken on in
recent years diminishes this effect, and in part highlights opponents’ strategy
that if they can make the concept of this punishment take on that nature, that
kicks out a prop to the argument favoring its maintenance.
No Louisiana lawmaker quite merges inarticulateness
and incoherence as well as does Democrat state Rep. Barbara Norton,
but she also recently managed to throw intemperance
if not hypocrisy into the mix.
Known for asking the House
to honor (and subjecting it to listen to) her godson’s obscene music output,
and notable for her unconventional use of grammar, Norton expanded her
reputation with her response to last week's rejection of HB 101 by
the House’s Committee
on Administration of Criminal Justice, on which she sits.
Her bill would have required movie theaters, at
their own expense, to install and monitor metal detectors, which also would
entail additional personnel costs. After about 10 minutes of video presentation
and opening remarks by her, and a few minutes of questioning and an amending to
make an exception for holders of concealed carry permits, Republican state Rep.
said the end product would create a false sense of security. He pointed out
that theaters that voluntarily did this in other states had trained personnel,
and moved to defer the bill involuntarily.
It seems that doing the mundane as part of his job
doesn’t satisfy Lt. Gov. Billy
Nungesser. Whether that merely remains consistent with his political career
to date and/or signifies ambitions to elevate his position by one notch remains
to be seen.
To say the lieutenant governor has next to no
relevant policy-making power and that performing the formal duties of the
office delivers little political excitement overstates the position’s
importance. In both of his runs, his previous in 2011 unsuccessful, Nungesser
made clear he envisioned the post much more expansively than did statute and
That he would adopt such an attitude perhaps seems
inevitable given his eight
years at the helm of Plaquemines Parish. Elected in the wake of the
hurricane disasters of 2005, one disaster after another plagued the parish
through his eight years. He really rose to fame after the oil spill disaster of
2010, with a couple of bad storms mixed in, by his bombastic,
shoot-from-the-hip style in pleading the parish’s case to statewide and national
audiences for restorative assistance.