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.
MAY 22 This post was written the day after the second line shooting in NOLA, by Brentin Mock. Mock is a friend of Deb "Big Red" Cotton, a blogger who was shot in the back and was seriously injured. It is a raw, emotional piece of writing, something the writer obviously felt he needed to get off his chest. But it raises questions that can't be easily dismissed, and might give some insight into where the source of these events truly is.
MAY 22 In this Baton Rouge Business Report post, Rolfe McCollister considers the privatization of bus service in Baton Rouge. After decades of under-funding, it is a mess, and although a tax (partially) passed last year, improvement hasn't happened yet. McCollister apparently feels it is time to let private business get in on the transit business.
MAY 22 This post on Bayou Buzz by Jeff Crouere urges the defeat of a bill that would grant modest pay increases over the next several years to the state's judges and clerks of court. The state is in no position to fund pay hikes, Crouere argues, with the pay increases costing a total of $9 million over several years. It sends the wrong message to the (proverbial) hard-working people of Louisiana, he says.
MAY 22 The Advocate reports here that State Treasurer John Kennedy is complaining about a meeting of the corporation that oversees the state's tobacco settlement. The Governor wanted it restructured, and he has some support, but not a lot. The corporation agreed with his plan, but Kennedy didn't, and it appears that the meeting was noticed in a manner completely different than that of all previous meetings. Kennedy's given to hyperbole, but in this case the fish don't smell too fresh.
MAY 22 In this Advocate story, Carencro Police Chief Carlos Stout says the recent federal indictment of a strip club owner is all wrong. The indictment alleges that drugs and prostitution went on with impunity because club staff made arrangements with "local" police. Stout says it never happened, and while his cops do work security in the parking lot, they're not allowed inside.
MAY 22 This amusing post in DIG Baton Rouge recounts an ad that ran on Craig's List recently; the advertiser was seeking tenants for a Beauregard Town house. He knew his market, and wrote an ad that the most ironical hipster couldn't resist. Apparently, he really did know his market, because the ad worked like a charm.
MAY 22 In this post in The Lens, Mark Moseley comments on the rhetoric Gov. Jindal employed in trying to save his tax "reform" package. One interesting point concerns Jindal's use of his brother, Nikesh, in a little story. Nikesh left Louisiana because of his inability to get a decent job, the story goes, but the story won't hold water: Nikesh lives in DC, which has an income tax level comparable to Louisiana, Moseley says. If income taxes caused the dismal situation, it should exist in DC too. Right?
MAY 22 This post by columnist John Maginnis traces the trajectory of the bill that would fund construction at community and technical colleges -- and bypass the Board of Regents and traditional higher ed funding mechanisms. Sure, it will bust the legislature's self-imposed debt limit, but some leges feel that there's more need (because there is more growth) in the community and technical college area than in the university area, he says.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.