Friday, December 01, 2006

Race, Party, Community, Durel and Leadership

This is a long post, but there is no way to break it up, since the ideas are all intertwined. The points are: the link between party and race is incontrovertible; Joey Durel's failure to provide leadership on the King street issue is inexorably tied to the fact that he is a Republican; economic progress in Lafayette is dependent upon racial tolerance; therefore, the kind of racially-insensitive Republican leadership exhibited by Durel and the Council are particularly unsuited to the job of advancing Lafayette's economic prospects in the 21st Century.

First, Party Politics in the South is ALL about Race.

A few days ago, in this post, my friend Tony Fazzio wrote:
Too often we forget that race is a matter of parity not party.
That statement is accurate only if one is willing to ignore the history of the rise of the Republican Party in the South. That rise began with Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Republican Party has ridden white racial anger and resentment since then.

Nationally, that has manifested itself in the so-called "Southern Strategy" in which the Republicans learned to speak in code to white Southerners. It was no coincidence that Ronald Reagan's first campaign event in the 1980 election campaign was the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi, within miles of where three civil rights workers were killed and buried by white racists in the mid 1960s.

In our state, Republicans took up the rebel yell of "states' rights" with the rest of their southern political brethren. And, while Dave Treen hid his prejudice behind a veneer of country club Republicanism, Mike Foster paid David Duke a hefty fee for voter lists (and, some say, to stay out of the 1995 governor's race). Upon taking office, one of Foster's most significant early acts was to eliminate affirmative action. There's that signal to the good ole boys that Big Mike was one of them.

While Republicans were out of power nationally, they could claim the mantel of conservatism; you know: 'small gov'ment, balanced budgets, low taxes.' To hear them talk, you would have thought that Republicans believed that government should be a lean, mean, fighting machine. Then, they came to power. As the past few years have shown, Republicans in Congress were neither for smaller government, nor balanced budgets. When George W. Bush became president, the Republican-controlled Congress gave up its constitutional responsibility to provide oversight on the actions of the executive branch, and allowed Bush to make unprecedented grabs of unchecked power. So, let's see: under Republicans, government grew, as did its power, deficits exploded, Congress nearly allowed a re-ordering of the Constitution without so much as a whimper, and corruption has become rampant on a scale never seen before.

And, still, we see local Republicans claiming to be conservative.

I think they're talking in code. What they're really saying is they are anti-black.

There's some voting analysis to back this up. In his book, Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, author Thomas F. Schaller says that Republicans are successful in the South because they have mastered the art of appealing to Southern racists.

Some of his case is based on voting research contained in a paper entitled: "Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South." The paper is by Nicholas Valentino and David Sears. The heart of the work is summarized in this paragraph from an article in The New Republic:
Running regressions on a massive data set of ideological opinions, Sears and Valentino demonstrate with precision that, for example, a white Southern man who calls himself a "conservative," controlling for racial attitudes, is no less likely to chance a vote for a Democratic presidential candidate than a Northerner who calls himself a conservative. Likewise, a pro-life or hawkish Southern white man is no less likely--again controlling for racial attitudes--than a pro-life or hawkish Northerner to vote for the Democrat. But, on the other hand, when the relevant identifier is anti-black answers to survey questions (such as whether one agrees "If blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites," or choosing whether blacks are "lazy" or "hardworking"), an untoward result jumps out: white Southerners are twice as likely than white Northerners to refuse to vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. Schaller's writes: "Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters ... the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past."
So, it is racism that created the basis for the Republican Party in the South, and it is racism that enables the party to hold onto its white base in the South despite the fact that the party has proven conclusively that it is not conservative by any standard by which it had set for itself.

Durel's Failure to Lead

Which brings me back to the matter of Joey Durel's silence in the face of the Martin Luther King street renaming controversy. First, I believe Durel received absolutely no pressure from his Republican base to get involved, defuse or otherwise provide leadership on this issue. Why? See above.

Instead, Durel allowed members of the parish's legislative branch to embarrass themselves and the parish by turning the issue into a display of pettiness and, yes, racism that has no place in a community that aspires to call itself progressive.

What has resulted is a series of decisions by the white majority on the Parish Council to defund projects in districts 3 and 4, which just happen to be the districts of the council members who have been pushing for the renaming of Willow Street after Dr. King.

Now, Tony Fazzio (and, aparently, Glenn Armentor) don't fault Durel on this. How can they not? I think it's got a lot to do with their failure to understand leadership and its responsibilities.

Yes, there was a deafening silence from many whom most consider leaders in the white community on the King Street renaming issue. But, the difference is that Joey Durel is the elected chief executive of this parish. That is, he is the leader of the public sector in this parish. As such, his actions and words speak to and for all of us, whether he wants them to or not; it's the nature of the job and, some might say, one of the burdens of leadership.

The fact that Durel did not intervene, did not try to prevent the dispute from becoming a controversy; nor from escalating from a controversy to a travesty, and not from escalating from a travesty to an embarrassment, undermines what he claims to be his broader agenda. It also is testimony to the fact that he never viewed this issue beyond anything but a political issue. His Republican base didn't think the escalations mattered, because they don't care about the issue, don't care for Chris Williams and Louis Benjamin, and, ultimately, Durel's supporters, in the famous words Kanye West's said about George Bush, don't care about black people. His silence on the King Street matter says Durel and his Republican backers don't believe the African American community matters to the future of the community.

The Economic Impact of Racial Intolerance.

Or, the price we pay for Durel's lack of leadership on race and Why it matters.

It matters because, as economist and author Richard Florida wrote in his book Rise of the Creative Class, the communities that will prosper in this century are those that have what he calls "the three T's: technology, talent, and tolerance."

Durel has postured himself as a leader trying to turn Lafayette into a progressive community that can attract the creative class that Florida profiled in his book.

So, let's look at the standards based on the Three T's. We've got technology (the fiber project, when it gets built will cement that piece, though we have many other assets along those lines). We've got talent (we've got UL Lafayette, the community college, the technical college and other talent-grooming assets in Acadiana). But, as the street renaming controversy has demonstrated, we've got a hell of a lot of work to do on the tolerance piece. More importantly, Durel is not working to make it better.

Not Up to the Challenges at Hand.

Lafayette is competing in a global economy. Many of the communities that we compete against are bigger and have equally good mixes of technology and talent (although maybe in different proportions). But, to think that we can compete successfully against these communities while declaring up front that we are going to ignore 25 percent of our population and, in fact, we're going to compete without them, is the equivalent of the Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail who, after having both legs and an arm cut off said, "it's only a flesh wound!"

"Visionary" is a cheap title in this town (some people have it on business cards). I don't think Joey Durel comes close to qualifying as a visionary — even at the cheapened level to which it has fallen in Lafayette.

His brand of leadership (the kind that will not challenge the biases of his backers) will not take take Lafayette to new, higher levels of community and economic success. In order to go there, we will have to use all of the talents and technology that we can muster. That means we can't afford to shut out or leave out any segment of our community in this competition. The challenges are too great and the competition is too fierce to think otherwise.

The white members of the council don't get it. Durel's Republican base doesn't get it. So far, Durel hasn't given any indication that he gets it either.

Considering the stakes for the community and its future, in my view, this disqualifies Durel as a suitable leader for Lafayette at this juncture in its development. It is about race. It is about party. And it is about the ability of this community to respond to the challenges it faces.

24 comments:

Nick said...

"And, still, we see local Republicans claiming to be conservative.

I think they're talking in code. What they're really saying is they are anti-black."

Boy, we're really good at unfound accusations of people, aren't we?

Anthony Fazzio said...

Nick:

You’re missing the point.

Republican political strength in the south is directly related to racism. That’s why David Duke ran as a Republican for Governor. And, with the help of the Christian- Right, Mike Foster bought Duke’s campaign list.

In the midst of the Chris Williams controversy, three whites attended a meeting to try in resolve the incident. The whites were Democrats.

"Too often we forget that race is a matter of parity not party."

Nick said...

But the Republican Party isn't the only party has benefited from racism. Don't you think it played a huge part in Blanco defeating Jindal in '03. Granted, those were probably "conservative" white voters. But all the same, Blanco and her camp knew she would receive that benefit.

The Democratic Party sure does seem to like Robert Byrd. He recruited and started his own klan group!! He and David Duke are basically one in the same. Neither one should ever be elected to office.

Now, not that I'm going to stick up for Durel. I voted for him in the primary but voted for Weber in the run-off, basically because they were going to be one in the same.

I just think it's reckless to make a blanket statement that local Republicans claiming to be conservative are really anti-black. That's actually just down right stupid, or ignorant, one of the two. But I believe Stagg does know better.

As for the Chris Williams situation, why has no one on the Council suggested a petition? If over 50% of the property owners/residents of Willow Street or whatever street agree to have the name changed and incur any costs of personal address changes, then change the name. I'd have no problem with that.

Apparently, though, Lafayette's politicians, from Williams to Conque to Durel, can't allow things to be that simple. Sure am glad I no longer live in Lafayette.

Anthony Fazzio said...

“the Republican Party isn't the only party [to] benefited from racism…it played a huge part in Blanco defeating Jindal...Granted, those were probably "conservative" white voters...all the same, Blanco and her camp knew she would receive that benefit.” I’ve heard that as well, which - if true - isn’t right and encouraging it isn’t right.

Byrd’s prior Klan involvement is also true.

“…A blanket statement that…Republicans claim...to be conservative are really anti-black. [is]..down right stupid, or ignorant...” Generalizations are dangerous because they can be proven wrong in specific cases. Mike is referring to a general perception that Republicans encourage. For example, Sen. Trent Lott said, "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either. "

Lott was referring to Thurmond’s 1948 residential nominee of the breakaway Dixiecrat Party
in 1948. Thurmond carried Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and his home state.

”As for the Chris Williams situation, why has no one on the Council suggested a petition?” The entire Williams matter really grew out of a dishonest refusal to fund roads in black North Lafayette after white councilmen got the support of Benjamin and Williams on funding in South Lafayette.

Mike Stagg said...

Robert Byrd renounced his membership in the KKK and apologized for it. There is a difference between someone who made a mistake and admits it, and a party that continues to live and die by the wedge issue, race being the most effective one used in this region. The proof is in the pudding. Look at the Republican Party. Look at the campaigns they run in the South. Look at the way they govern. It's not for nothing that the party is in full retreat everywhere but the South where, as that paper on racial attitudes reflecting voting patterns noted, "Old Times There Are Not Forgotten."

Those rebel flags on license plates, bumper stickers, decals, etc., are not about supporting Ole Miss. They are about celebrating a life of white domination of society — in fact, longing for the return of those days.

Nick said...

What about people who now view the rebel flag as being proud of a Southern heritage of good food, close, personal communities and polite manners? Hell, I've seen blacks sporting a rebel flag.

Robert Byrd renounced has memebership in the KKK, good for him. He still should never be elected to an office of leadership. Why not just start electing former Nazis who killed Jews. After all, that's what Byrd group did. They killed and tortured people simply because of race.

People like he and David Duke should be viewed as embarrasments and accomplises to murders, not rewarded with holding an office of medical and retirement benefits that 99% of us will never receive.

Again, your statement of calling all local conservative Republicans racist (anti-black) is either ignorance or stupidity on your part.

Anthony Fazzio said...

Nick:

You're missing Mike's point.

The view that "the rebel flag" is a symbol of "Southern heritage" is an illusion. The rebel flag was created as a direct result of "pro-slavery sentiment." The rebel flag doesn't symbolize "good food, close, personal communities and polite manners." It was and is a "badge of slavery."

Seeing nobility in the Southern rebel flag is like saying the Nazi swastikais a symbol of German heritage that includes "good food, close, personal communities and polite manners."

Robert Byrd did renounced his membership in the KKK and apologized for it.

Mike's accusations are based on what Republicans do. For example, Republicans, as group, objected to renewal of the Voting Rights Act, see GOP Rebellion Stops Voting Rights Act.

Republicans have no reason to complain when they are called racist, and Democrats are justified calling Republicans out on the issue of race.

Nick said...

So all Republicans are just racists, right? I guess, then, all trial lawyers are just ambulance chasers?

Good logic guys.

Anthony Fazzio said...

The phrase “ambulance chaser” is a disparaging phrase that doesn’t describe actual behavior. It's illegal for a lawyer to "chase an ambulance." If he does it and is caught, he can be disbarred.

On the other hand, accusations of racism against Republicans are directly associated with Republican behavior, as in resistance to the renewal of the objected to renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

Nick said...

"The kernel of truth in the text is that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is indeed set to expire unless it is renewed by Congress before 2007. The rest of it is false. The basic right of all American citizens to vote, regardless of race, is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and can't expire with the Voting Rights Act.

The NAACP addressed this issue in a statement quoted in the November 19, 1998 issue of the Internet Tourbus:

African American voting rights were granted by the Fifteenth Amendment, which was passed immediately after the Civil War. Expiration of the Voting Rights Act will not terminate the rights granted under the Fifteenth Amendment."

http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/weekly/aa120298.htm

Therefore, though passing a "renewal" of the Voting Rights Act would have been a nice gesture, the fact is that voting against it changed nothing. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 had real rellavence in 1965. Now in 2006, there are no Jim Crow Laws, though you yourself once stated something about no one should be an American unless they read a certain book. Hmm...that sounds a bit like the Jim Crow South.

But anyway, your hero, Huey P. Long, was best buddies with Leander Perez. Should we be reading something into that?

Anthony Fazzio said...

Long & Perez

In 1928, Leander Perez backed Huey Long for Governor. In 1929, Long won. Perez would later defend Huey in Longs state Senate impeachment trial. But a split was looming.

Huey Long would go on to establish night schools to reduce adult illiteracy of blacks from 38% to 23%.

Huey would also abolished poll tax in Louisiana, allowing blacks to vote.

Huey also used National Guard to protect polls.

By, 1935, Long was dead.

Earl Long, who succeeded Huey, would finish the job and do even more to register blacks to vote.

Huye Long’s and Earl Long’s racial activism didn’t sit well with Perez and other conservative racist.

By 1964, Perez would show his racist Republican colors and lead "Democrats for Goldwater" to support of racist Republican Barry M. Goldwater for president. Thus beagn the rise of the racist-wing of the Republican Party that Mike Stagg wrote about.

NAACP and Voting Rights Act of 1965

The NAACP’s support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has never waivered. If you think otherwise, read: NAACP 'storms' Capitol Hill for Voting Rights Act Bus caravan pushes Senate panel to vote for law's renewal

Nick said...

Your political hero had extremely close to a guy who led the effort to prevent desegregation. You have no way around that.

So if you ask me, you don't have much of a leg to stand on if making the same claim as Stagg, that all southern Republicans and/or conservatives are racist. That is what ya'll are trying to say, right?

Maybe that's why ya'll could barely get 30% in a district that is majority Democrats and has never had a Republican congressman until Boustany.

Anthony Fazzio said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anthony Fazzio said...

Nick:

My previous comment was deleted in error. I wrote:

You neither read well nor think well.

Stagg's views and my views are somewhat different.

As I see it, racism isn't limited to the Republican Party, but it is a derivative of conservatism and traditionalism, both of which are dogmatic and provincial by nature. Ah, but Grasshopper, since you’re a “conservative Cajun, ” you know this by your nature. (Master Po to Kwai Chang Caine.)

As far as a majority of the 7th Congressional district voting for Boustany, we’re not too concerned about that. The next election is just around the corner. In time, Boustany will have to stand and defend himself, which he can’t do and never will be able to do, because it’s not in his nature. Whenever and wherever we show up, Boustany runs, because it’s in his nature to run.

“Tempus et maris,” Grasshopper, “aestus neminem expectant.” (Master Po to Kwai Chang Caine, but in Chinese.)

Nick said...

"Ah, but Grasshopper, since you’re a “conservative Cajun, ” you know this by your nature."

I guess you're trying to say I'm racist by nature? If so, go ahead. Only makes you sound more ridiculous.

As for ya'll putting forth a better effort next election, that's good. However, I would recomend that next time, you don't make it so easy to trace comments under fake screen names on my blog to yourself. It was pretty lame. At least don't use the name of a philosopher that is linked on your business website.

Anthony Fazzio said...

Once again, you assume too much. You had all of the facts; you just didn't have the courage to say so.

Nick said...

So you admit that you had to stoop to that level...

Anthony Fazzio said...

Just the opposite, but you didn't have the courage to admit you were wrong.

Nick said...

So...that troll had the same exact IP address as you because???

Anthony Fazzio said...

Grasshopper:

At first, I didn't understand you comments until someone, who visits your site regularly, explained what you were getting at. If you thought your accusations were correct, you wouldn't keep asking for conformation or denial.

Now, I’m not sure what you mean by troll, although I do understand the mythological meaning. My IP isn’t what you have in mind. But, to prove your right and I’m wrong, you can make the IP anything you want, can’t you? That’s the nature of a one-sided argument.

But, Grasshopper, keep working at trying to understand the things around you. In time, your preoccupation with the wasteland of conservatism will pass.

Things never remain the same; that’s the theory of flux: "You cannot step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you." (Heraclitus) Change is inevitable, which is why liberalism always wins out. Conservatives meerly latch on to old, stale ideas that liberals have long abandonded.

By the way, were I to identify with a particular philosopher, it wouldn’t be Cato. He was too conservative. But, I’ll bet many of your conservative friends, especially those whom you have angered over the years, would gladly covet the name, Cato, and use when and where they have the chance.

Nick said...

Right. Well, the same IP that appeared for CATO also appeared the same exact time you've decided to link my post asking Boustany to debate Stagg. Don't know how you can argue around that.

And if there's a way to change an IP Address, believe me, I wouldn't know it. My wife had to show me out to change the outlay of my site.

Anthony Fazzio said...

Grasshopper:

You’re a work-in-progress.

On Nov. 1, 2006, I ran “Boustany supporters call for Boustany to debate Mike Stagg,” which is the basis you’re your accusation. Your comments to that piece were confusing to me. I made inquiry.

After Nov. 1, 2006, I received a missive from a “friend” of yours that said you began complaining about the fictional “Cato” in October 2006.

Your friend also said The Conservative Cajun likes to write on the conservative Glen Dean site. Glenn Dean is fond of quoting Milton Friedman and links to The Conservative Cajun Blog and to The Cato Institute.

Imagine the odds? Fortuitously linking The Conservative Cajun and Cato at the same conservative web site?

Could there be a connection between your fictional “Cato,” The Conservative Cajun, and the coincidence at the Glen Dean site? Could it be that Cato is your creation, part of the “I'm-a-martyr syndrome”? Or, was “your friend” simply a good guesser?

Nick said...

So I'm the one who created Cato? Nice premise, except for the fact that my only I.P. comes out of either Beaumont (where I work) or Opelousas (that's where Charter Communications declares my local).

Come up with something different. Again, I have the same I.P. Address from CATO's comments as the same from when you linked my post begging Boustany to debate Stagg.

Believe me, I have a life beyond creating a fake name. Do you have the same?

Anthony Fazzio said...

Grasshopper:

First, I can't validate that your "I.P. comes out of either Beaumont...Opelousas." It doesn't matter to me.

Secondly, I can't validate your claim that the "same I.P. Address from CATO's comments" comes up. I don't know "Cato," and I don't care.

Thirdly, if it's true that you "have a life beyond creating a fake name," it doesn't show.

Your "friend" (not mine) says you complain about "Cato" at other sites. Now, I don't know if that's true; I haven't checked. But, if it is true, then I submit that you have no life beyond "Cato."

Whoever "Cato" is, "Cato" has certainly been able to pre-occupy you for months now.

So, let me extend this challenge to you because you are bright and you can think.

Give me a succinct, but literate, definition, of a "liberal." I will use your definition, and I will show you that:

1. Jesus was a liberal and would be a liberal today.

2. All the founding Fathers were liberals and would be a liberals today.

3. Most of the religious doctirne, political doctrine, and moral ideas you hold dear are liberal.