The Democratic State Central Committee is not a larky kind of outfit, so its latest news release couldn’t have been a hoax.
It sure read like one, though. The committee had “voted overwhelming” to endorse Edwin Edwards for Congress. As if endorsing an ex-con weren’t enough of a joke, we read that Edwards completes “a slate of candidates that represents the Louisiana Democratic Party’s illustrious past and our proven present.”
As for the Democrats’ “proven present,” the release was issued just as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was heading off to take his turn behind bars. Nagin got the same sentence as Edwards — 10 years — and, thus, presumably faces an “illustrious” future.
The committee, meanwhile, urged everyone to “geaux vote.” Are we supposed to smile at that corny trick? The committee is only funny when it is trying to be serious.
What the Democrats hope to gain by making Edwards their official candidate is a mystery. When David Duke ran against him for governor a couple of decades ago, drumming up support for Edwards was a moral imperative, but the Republican field this time is bereft of Nazis or retired Grand Wizards. Now, Edwards is the candidate who should be beyond the pale.
When Duke burst on the political scene in the guise of a Republican, party officials lost no time in repudiating him, even wheeling out two presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, in the cause. It didn’t do any good at first — Duke was elected as a state representative from Metairie — but his subsequent campaigns flopped while the GOP stood on principle.
Edwards, as a mere racketeer, cannot be compared with such an evil force as Duke, but his record hardly entitles him to the imprimatur of a major party. If the party could not bring itself to declare Edwards a pariah, there was no percentage in making any public pronouncement.
The party’s endorsement is unlikely to sway voters anyway, because Edwards is universally known and feelings run high pro and con.
Other Democrats in receipt of an endorsement may now feel it has been devalued. Mary Landrieu, who is in a tight race to retain her Senate seat, for instance, probably does not relish being bracketed with Edwards.
Edwards might admittedly boost her prospects within his district, because he always has been adept at turning out the vote, and few of the blue-collar and black voters that are his core constituency will be supporting either of Landrieu’s Republican challengers, Rob Maness and Congressman Bill Cassidy. But Landrieu will no doubt decline any invitation to make a joint appearance on the campaign trail.
This is a heavily conservative district — and has become “more challenging terrain for Democratic candidates since it was redrawn in 2011,” as Democratic Party Vice Chairman Shane Riddle conceded in the endorsement press release. Nevertheless, Riddle said, “with the outpouring of support that Gov. Edwards has received, contrasted with the cluttered Republican field, Democrats see a path to victory.”
Riddle professed himself “impressed with the team and the energy coming from Team Edwards.” Candidates are seldom praised for having energy, but Edwards is 87 and perhaps the state central committee wanted to head off any suggestion that it was running a doddery candidate.
Edwards, as the only Democrat of substance in the field, is almost certain to make a runoff. Meanwhile, polls show Landrieu and Cassidy running neck and neck with Maness attracting a level of support that makes it unlikely that the Senate election will be settled in the primary.
Edwards and Landrieu, thus, seem destined to feature on the same runoff ballot in the 6th Congressional District. What effect that will have on her chances is hard to say, but, if Democrats really see “a path to victory” for Edwards, they have spent too much time in the sun.
Still, because politics has always been regarded as a form of entertainment in Louisiana, there is reason to rejoice that he is running. He may be long in the tooth, but he is still mighty quick with a riposte. When he raises a laugh, it’s on purpose.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.