The state Democratic Party needs to move “more to the center” and convince people it does not believe in socialist government, former Gov. Edwin Edwards said Monday.
Edwards, who led the party for decades, said that is the advice he gives fellow Democrats who ask him what can be done to stem the tide of Republican gains in the state political arena.
Democrats need to “convince the people of the state … we are not a giveaway party. We are a responsible party which likes to take care of health care for the indigent and aged and provides education for those who need it and want it,” Edwards said.
While Democrats are perceived to be on the “liberal side it’s only because we have a concern for the needs of the people,” said the state’s only four-term governor.
Democrats failed to field well-known candidates for any of seven statewide races on the Oct. 22 ballot.
In the past four years, both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature have become majority Republican after party switches, and the GOP is trying to gain a stronger foothold there.
Times are not good in Louisiana for Democrats today, but things change in politics, Edwards said.
“The one thing we can do is wait. It’s going to swing back. The pendulum swings nationally and in the state from left to right, and the people themselves will adjust the direction,” Edwards said.
Edwards noted that during former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s heyday, everyone thought the Republican Party was going to take over the country forever.
“It was short-lived,” he said.
Edwards talked about the Democratic Party’s situation as he answered reporters questions following a Press Club of Baton Rouge appearance.
During the event, Edwards quipped that the party needed to “change the name” when asked what Democrats could do to re-brand and reshape their party.
Edwards said one thing he is glad about is that Democrats who have switched parties have not changed “their attitude or philosophy,” just their party label.
During his Press Club speech, Edwards talked about Louisiana and U.S. fiscal problems and how to fix them.
He also touched on the more than eight years he spent in federal prison on corruption charges related to state riverboat licenses.
“Even though I did not deserve it, I’m not bitter, not going to cry about it, or wring my hands,” said Edwards. “I’m going to do what I can to help people.”
Edwards also said he’s glad he couldn’t run for governor this time around. “If I’d run, I would have won and I would have had all these problems,” he said.
Edwards advocated an added $5 per barrel surcharge on oil, saying it would raise $350 million annually and go along way to resolving budget woes.
While some will argue that the tax increase would run oil companies out of Louisiana, Edwards asked, “Where will they go? The oil is here. They can’t take it with them.”
He said the same argument was raised when he successfully promoted changing the tax on oil to generate more revenues.
Oil companies have gotten rich off Louisiana resources, Edwards said.
“We are producing a diminishing resource,” Edwards said, citing production statistics. “We are not getting enough out of it.”
The U.S. needs to get out of foreign combat “and bring our people home,” so the billions being spent can be invested in “green energy,” infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and public schools, Edwards said.
“The needs are in this country and while we could afford it, it was nice to do those things needed in other countries but we have reached a point where we are going to bankrupt ourselves if we don’t change that policy,” he said.