As he turns the quarter pole down the homestretch of his gubernatorial tenure, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards continues to come to grips with his constrained diminishing power that inches him towards cipher status when it comes to policy-making.
Leftists both in Louisiana and across the land surely perked up when last week Edwards commented about the looming special session for reapportionment. Republicans who control the Legislature are in the process of scheduling this at the crack of February.
In an elaboration of past comments alluding to “fair” redistricting for Congress, Edwards got liberals’ hearts fluttering when he said, “Fairness, if it can be done, would be to have two out of the six congressional district be minority districts.” Since the state has nearly one-third black population, by the numbers that theoretically wouldn’t pose problems.
Except that in practice the distribution of black residents statewide makes it impossible to draw such districts that can withstand constitutional muster, specifically the requirement that race cannot be an overriding factor in the remapping process. Because of that, Republicans can leverage the process to keep a map similar to that at present, with just one majority-minority district that favors five GOP and just one Democrat winner for the state’s U.S. House of Representatives delegation.
Which is why in his statement Edwards threw in words number two through six. The left salivates that he could use his veto power – while Senate Republicans haver a greater than two-thirds margin to override an Edwards veto of a 5/1 map, their House counterparts fall two short – to force through a 4/2 map, but Edwards knows the legislative and judicial landscape that would work together to come up with the new boundaries inevitably leads to a 5/1 map.
And with his power continuing to erode – highlighted last legislative cycle by the chambers calling the first veto session in the state’s history – he knows he can’t waste his dwindling political capital on a lost cause. He gave himself more room to hedge by adding, “Depending on where those populations are located it can be very difficult, or not, in order to draw those maps that work, but obviously if we want to talk about fairness and making sure that the maps reflect the reality of what the situation is on the ground, that should certainly be our goal.”
In the future, he may provide more lip service towards a 4/2 plan and even make a cursory effort to block anything else in the session. However, in the end look for him to determine that it can’t be done and acquiesce to a 4/2 arrangement.
Buckling to the real world he also found himself doing this week, when it came time for the essentially monthly renewal of the public health emergency he declared 21 months ago at the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. Speculation mounted that he might return the state to widespread face covering mandates, if not move even closer to the stultifying atmosphere in New Orleans with a vaccine passport segregating and herding the population except for congregation in public spaces deemed essential, because of the rapid ascendancy of the virus’ omicron mutation that transmits so easily although causes less severe reactions.
Instead, despite spewing rhetoric that talked of the dangers of the virus and alleging “public health experts also agree that masks are an important way to slow the spread of the Omicron variant now,” all his order added was an indoor masking requirement for state agencies, which doesn’t include those under control of other constitutional officers, and an advisory to do it elsewhere. The inconsistency seemed lost on him: if maintaining the fiction that masking is so effective – which in reality mandates for it aren’t as dozens of studies have revealed with the latest showing Michigan schools with mask mandates have similar virus case rates as schools with no mandate – in fighting such a burgeoning threat, then why not apply it everywhere?
This proclamation is nothing more than virtue signaling, satisfying segments of the left both of true believers who perpetually demand greater government control over people’s lives in order to magnify their power and privilege and of those they exploit who have succumbed to the learned helplessness taught to them through government policies supported by leftist elites that promote dependency and envy. One would hope Edwards issued it to placate these groups cynically in finally recognizing the largely-useless role that mask mandates play, but more likely it came from cold political calculation that the public would receive very poorly anything more extensive.
That latest going through the motions illuminates the fatigue Edwards emanates in a job he no longer finds fun since it has become almost entirely defensive, and an exhausting resistance at that. Look for more confirmation of that attitude during the special session where he will make from behind the scenes a greater effort to preserve his party from dying as a statewide political force than in public sustained defiance of a congressional map not too dissimilar than the one at present.