U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise will be LSU Law School’s commencement speaker on June 1st.
As a member of the faculty, I would love to hear Scalise’s ideas about how to reduce gun violence; make quality healthcare affordable for everybody; protect Social Security; dismantle the prison-industrial complex; protect the judicial system and federal law enforcement against Trump’s spurious, self-serving attacks; crack down on public corruption and white-collar crime; make the economy fairer for the bottom 90 percent; improve public education and increase teachers’ salaries; expand job, housing, and educational opportunities for the working poor; combat climate change; protect our electoral system in 2018 and 2020 against foreign interference; make voting as easy and convenient as possible for every eligible citizen (including felons who have completed their sentences); increase disaster relief to our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico; offer Dreamers full citizenship; stop blaming, demonizing, harassing, and deporting non-white immigrants; and promote human rights — including gender and racial equality — both at home and abroad.
Sadly, however, Scalise will probably tell us absolutely nothing about how to accomplish any of these worthy goals. Scalise has only one goal, and it is quite different: maintaining political power, whatever the moral and economic costs.
Of course, this driving ambition is not something that Scalise will talk about at commencement. Instead, here are my predictions:
He will discuss his own struggle to survive after being shot in June 2017 by James Hodgkinson. But instead of using this tragedy to promote policies that will help to protect many much more vulnerable citizens from similar gun violence, he will tell us that we are all in the Good Lord’s hands and therefore that faith and prayer are our best bets.
He will lament Hodgkinson's mental illness, but neglect to mention or explain why he voted both to kill measures broadening access to affordable mental health care and to repeal an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for severely mentally ill individuals to obtain guns.
He will repeat the words “freedom” and “liberty” each at least 10 times.
And he will close by encouraging the graduates to follow in his footsteps and pursue careers in “public service,” the euphemism that Republicans use for spending most of their time trying to raise campaign contributions from people whom they have deliberately helped to become insanely rich.
Lest I be misunderstood, I am not suggesting that Scalise’s invitation should be withdrawn. By all means, let him speak. Just don’t expect to learn anything from this guy. Good ideas that actually help the vast majority of his constituents are not really his expertise.
Holt B. Harrison professor of law, Paul M. Hebert Law Center