John Bel Edwards, Survivor
The second time around
On the night when John Bel Edwards was first elected governor in 2015, his victory party was at the Monteleone Hotel. Journalist Tyler Bridges would report that later that night, after the crowds had left, Edwards and some old friends from his West Point days went to the hotel’s rooftop deck to puff on victory cigars. For Edwards, it must have been a powerful moment, feeling the satisfaction of victory while looking over the New Orleans skyline and seeing the path of the Mississippi River, which wanders through the state he is about to govern.
Ahead would be four tough years best remembered for multiple legislative sessions to correct shortfalls from the previous administration. With each necessary tax fix that the new governor advocated, we could envision hired political consultants sharpening their knives to attack the governor as a tax monger when he ran again.
On election night 2019, this one spent in Baton Rouge, Edwards must have felt the jubilation from four years earlier, only he was also free of much of the previous burden. Now term-limited he is politically liberated, having the freedom to perform without having to worry about the political implications. Even the overwhelming Republican majority in both legislative houses provides some relief. Any shortfalls can now be blamed on an uncompromising legislature.
On the everyday matters of running the state, Edwards is now free to govern as he pleases.
Nor can he be tortured much by further ambitions. Once you are governor, any other state office is a step down. Conceivably he could run for U.S. Senator, but he would have to contend with the overwhelming Republican majority in the electorate. His best bet would be for a Democrat to be elected President and then offer him a cabinet post. Or maybe he can just opt to enjoy life as a former two-term governor who retired undefeated
During the campaign, President Donald Trump, campaigning on behalf of Republican Eddie Rispone, yelled tirelessly that Edwards, a conservative Democrat, was “too liberal for Louisiana.” We note that Edwards’ second term begins as the 21st century moves into the twenties. The last time around, in 1920, the state was on the verge of a dramatic shift as hard times and a depression created more demands for services. Huey Long emerged during the decade leading a populist uprising in which government provided free education, health care, school lunch programs and even textbooks. Louisiana’s Charity Hospital system was an example of big government for the whole nation to behold. In many ways, Louisiana during that period was the ultimate liberal state. President Franklin Roosevelt would have been right in proclaiming that Louisiana is “too liberal for the country.”
Political ideology shifts with the times; fortunately, the appreciation for decency remains consistent. Edwards seems like a decent person trying to do the right thing. No one can ever be accused of being too decent for Louisiana.