How can they even say that?

Do you even wonder this when reading about political debates? I can’t be the only one.

When I see a local politician defend his continuing refusal to communicate with the public through their representatives on the Parish Council, it comes to mind.

When I read about the governor holding true to the scare tactics he employed in the public dispute over next year’s state budget, the question again presents itself.

And when prosecutors and state politicians stand in the way of dismantling a travesty that was put in place to dilute the rights of black Louisianans, the question simply cannot be ignored.

How can they even say that? The answer is simple: They are looking out for their own political futures, regardless of what impact it could have on reason or justice or progress or truth.

They are driven by none of these noble goals but by self-importance and self-interest. It really is as simple as that.

Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle has repeatedly insisted that council members submit questions in writing prior to meetings so that he may dignify them with responses.

He has also refused to allow his department heads to attend the council meetings, though a new ordinance – passed over his veto – will compel regular appearances by Cantrelle’s departments of finance and public works. They will be required to give reports to the council and submit to question-and-answer sessions with the people’s representatives.

In a letter to the editor Cantrelle wrote, he defended his defiance in the face of requests for information and communication. He recited a list of all the ways his administration puts out information to the public through the Internet and various social media platforms. With an emphasis on sharing information, the administration’s communication strategy seems crafted carefully to manage the messages it conveys.

This is a strategy that might be weakened if it is exposed to the give and take of public questioning. And that brings up another important question: Why does Cantrelle so fear his underlings communicating with the council and, by extension, with the people they represent? Maybe someone will ask him in writing before the next meeting so the public might get an answer.

Don’t worry, though. Other politicians are out there defending actions that are just as laughable.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, in an effort to ramp up political pressure on the Legislature, sent terrifying notices to tens of thousands of our state’s most vulnerable residents saying the state could soon run out of money to take care of their medical services and nursing home care. While the possibility exists, no credible observer of state politics thinks that is going to happen.

The letters amounted to scare tactics meant to confuse and anger people who just don’t need that aggravation out of their government.

Rather than being chastened by the widespread public outrage over this incredible abuse of power, the Edwards administration has stuck to its guns.

“We believe the notice was appropriate and necessary,” Jay Dardenne, Edwards’ chief budget architect, said earlier this week. “We regret having to do it because we didn’t want to reach this point. We hated to have to do it.”

Well, they didn’t have to do it. They could have behaved in a far more sensible way rather than antagonize so many Louisianans and alienating so many political foes whose cooperation will be an integral part of solving the problem these letters supposedly described.

But the foolishness doesn’t stop there.

During debate in the Legislature over finally ridding our state of the shameful split-verdict law, prosecutors and at least one lawmaker have said (whined) that requiring unanimous verdicts will just be too hard.

Clearly, those prosecutors’ counterparts across the nation – where only one other state, Oregon, shares the racially motivated law with Louisiana – must be far superior to the folks who man our wheel of justice. They somehow are able to satisfy the sensible requirement of unanimous verdicts in felony cases.

In Louisiana, they have since 1898 been spared that extra bit of work by a constitutional convention whose stated purpose was to erode the political power of black Louisianans. In an effort to nullify the power of black jurors, the convention delegates allowed guilty verdicts with nine of 12 jurors voting that way. So, even if two or three black folks found their way onto a jury, their white neighbors could decide the case without their input.

Now, despite the defense of this racist law, the voters will get to decide. There are still no guarantees, but at least it’s made it this far – over the whining voices who prefer to remain in 1898.

How can they even say that?

 

Editorial Page Editor Michael Gorman can be reached at 448-7612 or by e-mail at mike.gorman@dailycomet.com.