The late President George H.W. Bush was probably not the most eloquent man ever in the Oval Office, but he left us a phrase much mocked during his day, one that reflected his disdain for political rhetoric.
“The vision thing,” he said dismissively when critics didn’t like his prudent and conservative approach to government.
In politics, the phrase stuck.
A generation later, Louisiana’s governor enters a second term with some specific plans that he talked about in the 2019 election, including more money for education and for roads and bridges.
But where’s the vision thing?
John Bel Edwards is from a family steeped in public service. He worked hard for eight years in opposition to the harsh cuts in state spending in the Legislature under former Gov. Bobby Jindal, then righted the ship in the last four years against what we considered an often unreasonable opposition from the House GOP leadership.
As he takes his gubernatorial oath of office on Monday, the governor needs to give his state and the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature before him a dose of the vision thing.
Edwards may speak Monday about specific proposals, although typically governors wait to deliver laundry lists of legislation until the opening of a new lawmaking session. The Legislature convenes March 9, when we shall hear from Edwards again.
Monday’s national championship football game for our LSU Tigers is another inaugural distraction, not least for the governor, who once quarterbacked Amite High’s football team back in the day.
But quarterbacks are expected to be team leaders. There is more to that than gaining yardage on specific plays. Louisiana has suffered for decades, not just in recent memory, from an over-reliance on extraction industries and a failure to educate new generations as well as our peers. There's a lot that the governor can choose to address.
Is there an overarching goal for the second term of the John Bel Edwards administration?
We know that government — what Edwards does — is more detail than high-flown phrases. That is why President Bush did not like to hear about the vision thing.
But when one is in a political minority, as Edwards is as a Democratic governor in the Deep South, it will help him to sketch out for all to hear the vision thing for the coming four years.
Four years is a long time. There are a significant number of new legislators who might be of a different political party but who represent an infusion of fresh blood in the 2020 Legislature.
We congratulate the governor on entering his second term. For the good of the state, we want him to make the best of the next four years. Tell us, governor, where we are headed.