A remake of Louisiana’s 1991 election?Politically Aware Thursday, July 7th, 2016
Commentary: Politically Aware
As I listened to FBI Director James Comey’s statement on the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, one quote ran through my mind: “Vote For the Crook … It’s Important.”
That was the unofficial slogan of the 1991 race for Louisiana governor. Whatever the official slogan was, it came in a distant third, also losing to “Vote for the Lizard, not the Wizard.”
The “Crook” (or “Lizard”) was former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who beat charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice and bribery in 1985, but admitted racking up gambling losses under aliases and paying them off with suitcases stuffed with cash. The “Wizard” was David Duke, a Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, and a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The 2016 presidential election looks eerily like a studio remake of that 1991 Louisiana election.
The lead characters have been softened a touch. Unlike Edwards, Clinton has not been charged with a crime, but Comey was far from laudatory in his recommendation against criminal action. The investigation uncovered email threads with information that was classified at the time, bad news even if it can be squared with Clinton’s statements. “They were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” makes a much better ad for Trump than “No reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case” does for Clinton.
Unlike Duke, Trump has not been a leader in the KKK, but he has called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers, used a six-pointed star in a Tweet about corruption, and promised a ban on Muslim immigration. In an unscripted cameo, Duke showed up to compliment Trump’s immigration stance, and Trump seemed slow to usher him from the stage.
As in 1991, the Democratic supporting cast stands behind their candidate with one voice. The Republican chorus, who ran from Duke’s campaign in near unison, are more cacophonous this year. Older members, notably former President George H. W. Bush, have distanced themselves from Trump as fast as they did Duke. Others have run from, stood with or hugged Trump, in almost direct correlation to the Republican lean of their electorate.
The basic plot, two flawed and unpopular politicians vying for supremacy, remains constant, but like most good remakes the 2016 version is bigger and better. Clinton vs. Trump is on a national stage, and the budget will be billions. The stakes include nuclear codes and Supreme Court justices.
Remakes rarely flip the ending, though they may try to make the villain a little more human. Edwards beat Duke by 22 points in 1991, so Clinton should be hopeful she can win if she sticks to script. Once “Stronger Together” has run its course, her next slogan might be one with a nod to history, a touch of humility, and an unvarnished truth: “Vote for the Careless Emailer. It’s Important.”
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