Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Louisiana Democrats and the DNC: A Bill Has Come Due

Welcome to Louisiana, Democratic National Committee! Thank you for choosing Louisiana in general and New Orleans in particular as the site for one of your 2006 meetings.

We are grateful for the attention.

But, don't think for a minute that just showing up and contributing some bucks to our sales tax coffers in any way approaches settling the debt we are owed by you, the party, and the nation as the place where the resistance to Bush/Cheney emerged, the implosion began and then tipped to the point of creating an imperiled presidency.

Before laying claim to what we're owed, let's establish why we're owed.

In the month between the November 2002 mid-term elections and the December run-off for Mary Landrieu's U.S. Senate seat, the Bush/Cheney administration and their allies, poured tens of millions of dollars into Louisiana seeking to end Senator Landrieu's tenure at one term. But, Louisiana voters cut through the rhetoric and the BS, rallied to Senator Landrieu and, despite being outspent, she was returned to the Senate for a second term.

At that same time, unbeknownst to just about everyone then, Jack Abramoff and his band of happy thieves were planting the political mines across Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi (in the form suitcases of Indian casino cash) that would bring Republicans crashing down. Abramoff, like his buddies Bush and Cheney, apparently figured Louisiana Indians, Republicans and Christians for easy marks. It would all come crashing down within four years, but that would come later. Just remember that it all got started in Louisiana. Welcome to ground zero.

In 2003, again, national Republicans and their allies poured big bucks into Louisiana, trying to retain the governorship for their party. Again, Louisiana voters sniffed through the BS, figured out who was genuine, and elected Democrat Kathleen Babineaux Blanco as their governor.

In 2004, things went crazy.

For the second consecutive election cycle, the Democratic national ticket abandoned Louisiana shortly after the convention, thus leaving the Republican spin machine to fill the vacuum. Let the record also show that when the national ticket and the DNC spend money in Louisiana, Democrats elect presidents. See Bill Clinton 1992 and 1996 for the freshest evidence.

As a result of that vacuum, Louisiana elected our first Republican senator since Reconstruction, we also lost a traditionally Democratic Congressional District (the 7th) and failed to support what could have been a serious challenge to a party-switching traitor in the 5th. Fortunately, Charlie Melancon was just too dogged a campaigner to let any obstacle stand in the way of his election and he captured the 3rd District.

The fact remains that when the 2008 presidential election cycle comes around, it will have been 12 years since the national party ran a campaign in our state. Howard Dean, this statement presumes that you will make good on your pledge that the party will run in all 50 states in 2008.

But, there's one more matter on the why we're owed: the storms of 2005.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ripped final tatters of competence from the facade of the Bush administration. People around the world were stunned by the images of Americans standing on the roofs of their houses pleading for food and rescue; shocked by the scenes of people dying on the street in front of the New Orleans Convention Center while the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security denied knowing there were any people gather there at all; dumfounded by the incompetence of Bush-appointed head of FEMA Michael Brown and how his scapegoating sought to shield the Bush administration’s record of cronyism.

Two weeks later, Hurricane Rita devastated southwest Louisiana and east Texas, but the horror of the impact of that storm paled in the wake of the federal failures after Katrina. The worst kept secret of 2005 and 2006 is that the federal response to Hurricane Rita has been every bit as incompetent and ineffective as it was for Katrina.

One result of more than 1,000 Louisianans being killed by the storms and their floods, tens of thousands having been displaced from their homes, hundred of thousands forced to evacuate the communities which they'd always called home, has been that the Bush administration has lost credibility with all but the most diehard Republican loyalists.

It was too high a price for us to pay, but Louisiana's misfortune has extracted a political price from Bush and Republicans that will haunt them this year and for decades to come.

While his Iraq adventure/war has seriously damaged his presidency, it was the failure of his administration to protect and shelter Americans in their homes, in their cities in the wake of natural disaster that finally undid George W. Bush. That happened here. It happened in our state, in our cities, to our people. It happened to us.

What we're owed.

So, now that you've decided to meet in New Orleans, here's a bill for services rendered over the past four years in the matter of the wrecking of the Bush presidency.

That bill is a commitment from the DNC and its allies and friends to spend not one damned dime less than $2 million in Louisiana in 2006, delivering its national campaign theme in districts across the state and in direct support of Democratic members of Congress and Democrats who are challenging Republican members of Congress.

Start with the Democrats. Charlie Melancon deserves to be re-elected and, though his prospects for re-election look good at this point, we want to ensure that he has the resources he needs to win against all challengers.

Congressman Bill Jefferson's legal challenges are well known. The party needs to work to ensure that this seat remains in Democratic hands.

In District 1, Republican Bobby Jindal is running around the state preparing to run for governor again in 2007. Jindal has deep ties to the conservative movement in the country and to corruption (he has signed more of Grover Norquist's no-tax pledges than he's signed paychecks). When he was DHH Secretary under Republican Governor Mike Foster, his office squelched water tests that showed contamination of drinking water of residents in a trailer park next to a chemical plant across the river from Baton Rouge. And, on his first day as a member of Congress, Jindal voted to scuttle the ethics process in the house in order to protect Tom DeLay. Go after Jindal in 2006 and it will pay dividends in 2007 as well.

In District 5, Rodney Alexander has jumped parties once and (man of principle that he is) will probably try jump again when the Democratic Party returns to majority status in the House later this year. But, the party does not need traitors in its ranks and should not repeat the mistake of 2004; it should put money into a Democratic campaign to defeat Alexander.

In the 4th District, Jim McCrery is up to his armpits in money from Jack Abramoff’s clients. What party loyalty oath will he have to take in order to move up the Republican leadership? This is the year to once and for all link McCrery to the corruption and incompetence of his party. There is a strong military presence in his district, too. Hold McCrery accountable for his support of Bush/Cheney military adventurism.

In the 7th District, Charles Boustany got elected because Democrats tried to defeat him by running a Republican against him. The 7th District is a Democratic district waiting for a Democrat to run for that seat. People will not spontaneously respond to a message that is not articulated. They also will not vote for candidates who they perceive don't have a set of core values. Boustany's core value is political opportunism that was masked by the failure of the party to give voters a choice in 2004. Boustany has been touched by corruption (like fellow freshman Jindal, he voted to gut the Ethics Committee in a vote on his first day in office). He's taken money from other corrupt Republicans and their corruptors. He is an atrocious public speaker, easily rattled. Run a Democrat against him and this seat can be ours again.

All of these Repubican congressmen are susceptible to the kind of national campaign that can not only tip Louisiana, but the majority of the House into the Democratic column.

The reason national participation in these campaigns is so important this year is the economic and financial blows that the storms have delivered to our state and its people. Too many of our voters and our workers are flat on their financial backs trying to recover from the devastating blows those two women delivered.

The financial resources to mount the kinds of campaigns we need are just not available locally.

This money would not just be an attempt to wring victory this year, it is an essential investment that will lay the foundation for victory here in 2008 when we have a senate seat to defend and a president to elect.

As prior elections have shown, every vote does count. Louisiana’s electoral votes should be in the blue column in 2008. The way to get there is by investing in the Democratic message here in 2006.

No comments: