If politics is often seen as less about principle than about deception — what Benjamin Disraeli immortalized in the 19th century as lies, damned lies and statistics — the aftermath of any election requires a stern reality check.
Nowhere more so than in Louisiana. At no time more than in 2020.
One of those statistics: Over four weeks, the Louisiana Workforce Commission reported in October, the moving average of continued unemployment claims was more than 158,000.
The good news is that statistic is down from more than 180,000 but it is still drastically above the same weeks in 2019. What it tells us is that there remains a tremendous level of economic and social pain from the main event of 2020, which was not at the ballot box but at hospitals.
In any post-election reality check, the need for action by the U.S. Congress on a pandemic relief bill has to be a top item on the list.
Still, reality for Louisiana is not limited to that current-events question, which will answer whether many people can afford to keep current on their bills as the holiday season approaches.
Our long-term needs are often recited in these pages. Our coastline is threatened by rising sea levels combined with subsidence in the soil. Our educational outcomes are not competitive with most states of the Union, much less foreign countries competing for good jobs. Our infrastructure woes are not unique, but we’re almost alone among the states in refusing to raise more revenues for basic repair of roads and bridges.
If there is good news in that list, it is that the people of Louisiana are aware and awake to the need for change. For us, though, the changes that will make a difference cannot be fully addressed by any act of Congress or decision of any president.
We have to grasp our own future beyond any single election cycle. But if that is as true, or more so, in 2020 than other years, we also face another reality that is, once again, not much different from that of many other communities: racial disparities.
In this year of protests, much of the attention has been focused on Black Lives Matter and disparities in treatment of minority citizens by law enforcement. That is too often a reality, here as elsewhere.
But in a larger sense, that discussion underlines another reality-check item on our list: unity instead of division. In Louisiana, as in other states, we need a renewed sense of national unity after such a divisive and contentious presidential contest. For the Bayou State specifically, we need to advance in many arenas — police protection just being one — to provide the circumstances for minorities to not only live safely but lead more prosperous lives.
In that advancement, which must be achieved across all the lines of division in our society, our economic and social future will be determined.