Today Louisiana gets a new governor, an office which, in this state, had often had folkloric status. Many other states have had folk characters in their legends. It might be a Paul Bunyan- sized lumberjack; a cowboy as wild as Pecos Bill or a Casey Jones recklessly at a train engine throttle.
In Louisiana the legends are sometimes about Loup Garou: a swamp-based werewolf, but most often about politicians. “Senator, I need to know, are you with me or are you against me?” Gov. Earl Long once reportedly asked a lawmaker.
“Governor, when you’re right I am with you; when you’re wrong I am against you,” the Senator righteously replied.
“When I am right,” Long shot back, “I don’t need you.”
Brothers Huey and Early Long gave Louisiana politics much of its color and many of its problems, a legacy that would be embellished by the four terms served by Edwin Edwards and by the twice-elected country crooning Jimmie Davis – who once rode his horse all the way up the state capitol’s steps.
Not all the governors have been colorful; some were conservative in style and methodical in management. Indeed too much of one style of governor has tended to send voters gravitating to another style, as in from Edwin Edwards to Bobby Jindal. There is a political pendulum that makes voters want more or less.
Sometimes the pendulum stops in the middle. We see that today. Contemporary governors are less likely to be flamboyant showmen and more conditioned to the TV-oriented 15-second response. Louisiana has historically given its governors great powers, so the potential for change is enormous.
We wish the new governor well. May the legislature support him whenever he is right, and may he be right often. And, most of all, may his trail be free of Loup Garous.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.
**This blog is adapted from a column by Errol Laborde that appeared in the January/February edition of Louisiana Life Magazine.