A Democratic governor in a deep red state, John Bel Edwards is a guy who is in a very weak position. However, he likes to act as though his position is way stronger than it is, and in his first term, and his third legislative session, as governor of Louisiana, he appears to already be a lame duck.
This is the result of a series of rather stupid gambits that did little other than bring a lot of attention to himself and not enough to his political opponents in the state’s legislature.
When he first started, Edwards threatened that the state’s budget woes could very well force college football to end in the state – which got so much blowback, his administration never, ever, ever used that talking point again, as well as pretended it never happened.
He has doubled-down on dumb in this legislative session, two years later, with an even dumber tactic: He threatened to kick old folks out of nursing homes. It went over poorly, yet Edwards was so confident in his strategy that he invited CNN and CBS down to Louisiana to cover it.
Being smarter than Edwards, they gave it minimal coverage, because they know that bragging about kicking old people out of nursing homes is a really, really dumb idea.
Now, before I go on, I need to explain something to you: Despite being a deep red state, Louisiana’s Senate is actually pretty liberal on the fiscal front. Raising taxes is kinda their thing, and Edwards has had a ready ally in Senate President John Alario as he’s battled the Louisiana House Republicans.
Edwards and his commissioner of administration, (supposedly) Republican Jay Dardenne, berated the Senate’s budget bill, which took money from higher education to fill the health department gaps (thus, saving the old people). The Senate responded by ending their alliance with Edwards, and all but declared war – the Senate Finance Committee pushed the bill to the full Senate.
I wrote about this at the conservative news site The Hayride, which covers Louisiana and southern politics.
Edwards, in the truest Edwards fashion, sealed his own fate the moment his administration sent out letters to thousands of elderly Louisiana citizens threatening to evict them. Much like the time he threatened LSU football, all Edwards did was alienate anyone across the aisle that might have worked with him, and instead solidified his opposition.
It was a huge miscalculation on Edwards’ part.
The Senate Finance Committee allowing this to go before the full Senate next week appears to be a sign – one that is currently backed up by whispers out of Baton Rouge – that the Senate plans to vote on this budget, and that it has the votes to pass it.
The possible results of the budget’s passage would be devastating for Edwards. Either he eats crow and signs the budget proposal into law, or he vetoes it and then he’s the one responsible for evicting 30,000 people from nursing homes.
So, where does this leave Louisiana? Likely, a special session that will end up raising some revenue will be called, and the state’s Senate will spearhead those efforts. But, having effectively isolated both chambers of the legislature, Edwards has effectively entered the lame duck phase of his first term.
While the Democrats are looking for new players on the national stage, I think Edwards, who has toyed around with the idea in his head, has proven himself to not be the player they’re looking for. He was elected more as a rejection of David Vitter and his baggage, rather than on the merits of his own ideas, and these last three legislative sessions have proven it.