Former Congressman Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., speaks Wednesday during the Ind Lecture Series at the Cajundome Convention Center.
Mickey Edwards, the former eight-term Republican congressman from Oklahoma, likens politics in Washington, D.C., to sports, and it isn’t a flattering analogy. “It’s so dysfunctional that it’s not like a group of Americans sitting together trying to solve our problems; it’s more like the NFL. It’s more like the Saints against the Cowboys,” Edwards told a packed Cajundome Convention Center ballroom Wednesday during an Ind Lecture Series luncheon. For more than a half hour Edwards decried the “us versus them” climate in the Beltway, where Republicans and Democrats agree on virtually nothing and virtually nothing gets done on voters’ behalf.
That’s a theme Edwards has been hammering — in newspaper op-eds, as a frequent guest on television and radio news panels, and in his new book, The Parties Vs. the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans.
“Your obligation as a member of the United States Congress is to use your brains, use your experience, gather information so you can make intelligent decisions,” said Edwards, who after leaving Congress in 1993 taught at Harvard and Princeton universities for several years. He’s now a member of the nonprofit Aspen Institute.
His ire over gridlock is directed equally at Democrats and Republicans — “private, power-seeking clubs,” as he would later characterize them during the lecture — and although a card-carrying member of the GOP and a self-professed small-government conservative, he pulled no punches with his own party in one of many references to the U.S. Constitution: “Nowhere in there does it say you should do what your party wants or what your contributors want or what some guy who asks you to sign a pledge wants. I took a pledge. The only pledge I ever took, it was to the Constitution. Anybody who signs a pledge about taxes, about immigration, about abortion... is not fulfilling their obligation to serve the country, and that’s what members [of Congress] do all the time.”
The remedies Edwards prescribes for closing the partisan divide center around mainstreaming Congress by reducing the likelihood of partisan extremists getting elected: by banishing to the dust bin of bad electoral policy the closed party primaries used in most states, which Edwards argues tend to create candidates who represent the political fringes á la Tea Party candidates Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell, who defeated mainstream Republicans more likely to compromise with Democrats; by prohibiting the political party that controls a state legislature from controlling congressional redistricting; and by electing a non-partisan House speaker, among other things.
The former congressman’s urgency was palpable in his closing remarks:
We have got to regain control of our government so that the people who are in Washington making these decisions for us really represent the people. And the best decisions they can make with the power of their brains are about what’s best for America, not what’s best for their team.
The fact that we today operate as team against team is why we cannot come together and find common ground on anything. What price do we pay if we can’t? How do we keep our water clean? How do we keep our pharmaceuticals safe? How do we pay our national bills? How do we supply our troops? How do we do the things we would all agree on?
We all agree that there is a purpose in government to do things that we all need done, that we cannot do ourselves. I’m for limited government, but there are things government is required to do, even under our Constitution. And it ain’t gonna happen as long we allow two private, power-seeking clubs to shape our system of government to their own narrow, partisan advantage.
That’s why I say let’s turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans — not that they don’t care about America, but we need to have their decisions made not to help them and their team but to help run the country that we all love.
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MAR 12 Here we go! The former vice president of Louisiana College has filed suit against the private Baptist school and its embattled president, Joe Aguillard, the Town Talk reports here. He says he was fired because he blew the whistle on Aguillard. But really -- who cares? This means interrogatories, depositions, and other evidence-gathering activities. That alone will be worth the price of admission.
MAR 12 Blogger Dayne Sherman writes about Gov. Jindal's refusal to expand Medicaid in this post. He asks: if Bobby's so pro-life, how come he doesn't care about the life already here? Dayne, who hasn't posted in quite a while, apparently has been saving up. He's got a lot to say about what Jindal's been up to, including some recent events which saw Jindal as "Pee-Wee Herman acting all John Wayne." Now that's a visual.
MAR 12 This post on NOLA Defender's politics blog covers Gen. Russel Honore's new command, that of a self-named "Green Army" of environmental activists. The Army got together for the first time (in real life; they've been networking online for a while now) this past weekend on the steps of the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. The first aim: protect Louisiana's aquifers from industry that would drain and contaminate them. The army may be small, but already has attracted attention, the blog tells us.
MAR 12 Here's an interesting post on the politics blog of The Lens about the proposed increase in minimum wage. As a business owner, you might expect Chase to come down against it, but in true Chase Family fashion he does not. He argues that paying a "just" wage encourages productivity, adding that discussions about what people are paid should not be limited to economics, but include that concept of justice.
MAR 12 Here's a post by Becky Banks on Salon about True Detective and Louisiana. She's talking here about what she feels to be the elements of a classic southern gothic horror story, as well as the trend in Louisiana "reality" shows to downplay the intelligence of the cast and portray the state as "another country." It's an interesting read but don't go there if you haven't watched the end of TD; the killer's identity is discussed here.
MAR 12 Here's DIG Baton Rouge taking a look at some of the bills prefiled before the session that started Monday. Among them, a bill to make a (very, very old) Bible the state's official book, another that would close our primary system, and one that would allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Now that's a GREAT idea.
MAR 12 Here's an example of how well the death penalty works in Louisiana. This NBC33 story tells us about a man who spent 30 years on death row at Angola -- before being freed this week after it was determined he was innocent of the crime we were going to kill him for.
MAR 12 Blogger Jeff Crouere writes about the governor in this post on Bayou Buzz, and it's not a clipping that will end up on Bobby's refrigerator. He starts out saying that Jindal is weak at home and "irrelevant nationally." And that might be the nicest thing he says in the whole post. The only place Bobby Jindal will ever be President is "in his fantasies," Jeff writes. Yikes.
MAR 11 Two (allegedly) newsworthy things happened on Monday: Bobby Jindal laid out his plan for the legislative session, and Lil Boosie gave his first interview after being sprung from the joint. (Who's Lil Boosie, you say? Click here.) To celebrate these equally fascinating monologues, the Picayune posts this story asking you to determine which luminary uttered which pearl of wisdom.
MAR 11 Columnist John Maginnis writes here of Gov. Bobby Jindal's recent streak of meanness toward the President. Since it is having no effect on his national profile, and Bobby's not delusional (oh, OK - thanks for the update on that) Maginnis opines that Jindal is possibly auditioning to be someone's (anyone's?) vice president. Impressing higher-ups is one of Jindal's abilities, Maginnis reminds us.
MAR 11 Blogger Jason Berry gives us an update on the continuing activity connected to BP oil spill claims. For some time on the American Zombie blog, he's been keeping up with the "shenanigans" at a level not even contemplated by Louisiana's media. (You know, kind of like he did with Ray Nagin. So probably the Picayune will be taking credit for this in a couple years, too.) There are links to his previous posts, as well, so if you're curious this is a good place to start.
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