Monday, May 22, 2006
louisiana politics: why did nagin win?
this is where i'm at right now... [and a heads-up that this post is a little long]
so first there was ray nagin, an african-american cable tv executive, who was elected 4 years ago after marc morial, another african-american mayor, was term-limited. marc's father, dutch morial, had previously been mayor. both morials had been accused of corruption. conservative whites especially didn't like them. but the city hadn't had a white mayor since moon landreiu.
now when moon was mayor, he was instrumental in reducing segregation, and including african-americans in city government. many whites didn't like that. and still don't. they refer to moon's tenure as the beginning of the "decline of new orleans" which sounds like code to me:
ok, back to nagin. when he 1st ran for mayor, he was supported by the white establishment. the black vote was split. his administration is considered to be scandal free, but beyond that i'm not sure. this article from the times picayune, indicates that nagin has just as many connections to corrupt politicians as anyone else in louisiana. in any case, after katrina, with nagin's blaming of bush and chocolate city speech, the white conservatives didn't like him as much. or they liked him even more, because he was there as the piñata for them all to blame. in any case the conservatives hated mitch landreiu.I submit that the anti-Mitch sentiment stems largely from residual white resentment at Moon's desegregation of city government. It speaks directly to the identity issue for white New Orleanians who, to this day, believe their New Orleans began to crumble the day "those people" took over. Some whites will vote against Mitch because of their racially-based suspicion of the "Landrieu clan". Others will vote for Nagin because they know he will tend to favor developers in the fight over who ultimately is allowed to return. In other words, a significant portion of the white vote will go to the black candidate specifically out of racial animosity towards the black population. Meanwhile Nagin will continue to enjoy an overwhelming share of the black vote. The reason: Black racial anxiety.
after the primary left them with the choice of either nagin or landreiu, nagin became preferable once again - the lesser of two evils. because he was a republican in democratic clothing, he was "one of the good ones", or because they thought it would be better for the next governors race to have nagin in office as opposed to mitch:
interesting. and this theory also may explain why republican mayoral candidate rob couhig endorsed nagin after the primary:The "Oyster-Adrastos" theory is that many Louisiana Repubs want to help re-elect Nagin so that they can use him, in Oyster's memorable phrase, as a useful idiot for the GOP to pound on in next year's statewide election. Nagin defeating Mitch would also have the side benefit of damaging Landrieu as a statewide candidate for either re-election or the governorship. The GOP thinks that the combination of Nagin and Gov. Blanco is its ticket to taking control of state government next year.
that goes for other big republican donors, too.Anyway, Couhig was told that if he was a good boy and endorsed Nagin for Mayor that a strong effort, including oodles of money, would be made to clear the Repub field so that Couhig would succeed [Republican rep. Bobby Jindall] in Congress. This makes perfect sense: Couhig ran for the seat when it came open after Bob Livingston left Congress because he couldn't keep his pants zipped up. It's also a safe Republican seat.
at the same time, nagin has seemed to make up with bush, enough at least to give him a shout out in his acceptance speech last night. is it as simple as kissing the hand that controls the federal purse strings, their bonding over being "misunderstood" by the media and other "similarities"?
or, maybe it's all just as simple as harry shearer so clearly puts it:
ouch. that hurt. he goes on:Mitch Landrieu, the challenger to once and future incumbent Ray Nagin, ran like a Democrat.
If there was ever a time to put the courtesy aside, this was it. Landrieu's approach reminded me, sitting here in D.C. for the weekend, of nothing so much as Kerry's in 2004: assuming that voters will fill in the blanks, not daring to express the anger that animated his base lest he offend those at the margins.
wow, my brain's tired. it's time for bed.If you don't give the voters a passionately lucid reason why the incumbent needs to be unseated, you can't blame them for pausing at the switch. Race will undoutedly get the blame, but Landrieu might well have looked at one of Nagin's other primary opponents, white conservative Rob Couhig, for a primer on how to frame a passionately lucid attack on the incumbent. BTW, Couhig endorsed Nagin in the runoff.