Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Impression: Politics

I did not know of Louisiana's Mary Landrieu until September. Since then I have seen her in two political debates with John N. Kennedy, during her campaign to be elected again to the U.S. senate. I was impressed by her intelligence and grasp of the issues, and by what seemed her honesty and directness. She is respected as a very competent political person who is not driven by ideology but by the demands of her state and the substance of issues; and she is part of, and sometimes the leader of, various important congressional committees: she is on the appropriations committee, the energy committee, the small business committee, and chairs the disaster recovery submittee (of the larger government affairs committee). I was not positively impressed by her opponent--and found his responses to various questions pandering, too simple, and inadequate, and thought that the fact that it was a close race very suggestive about the intellectual and political requirements of the voting populace. (He ran a campaign similiar in its nastiness, and in its failure to define him and his principles, to that of John McCain and Hillary Clinton.) Luckily, Landrieu did win by some 50,000 votes, a reassuring fact, especially in an election year when most of the state's votes seems to have gone to conservative Senator John McCain rather than the progressive candidate, and the election winner, Senator Barack Obama, who embodied hope, intellect, and unity, in the national presidential race. I was pleased that New York supported Senator Obama and troubled that Louisiana did not, a fact that seems a commitment by many in the state to old ways of being, thinking, and governing.

One of the local election issues in Louisiana actually involves desegregation: as Nathan Stubbs wrote yesterday on the web site of a local weekly paper, The Independent, “One of the most dramatic local stories will involve the fate of Ville Platte High School. For the third time this year, voters are being asked to approve a property tax increase that would go toward a bond issue to renovate the deteriorating 100-year-old facility.” Why? “With a predominately-black student population, Ville Platte High is at the center of a 45-year-old desegregation case facing the parish - an issue has divided the town along racial and socioeconomic lines. The federal Justice Department says that if the bond issue on today’s ballot fails, it plans to shut down the school.” The bond issue did not pass—it did fail.