Sunday, December 08, 2002

Kingfishery & Kingcakery - Something I witnessed today while driving down the streets of the City of New Orleans really drove the point home to me of the sleaziness and downright evil of the Louisiana Republican Party, and of Suzanne Haik Terrell's failed Senate Campaign. As I drove past the intersection of Washington and Carrollton Avenues, which is in a predominantly poor black part of the City, I noticed an election day sign all along the neutral ground (our name for a "median") that read in large print: "Mary, if you don't respect us, don't expect us." In small print at the bottom, the words read: "Paid for by the Louisiana Republican Party." When I saw this sign, I was incensed. It is perhaps the most despicable, desperate, and dare I say racist, last-minute election campaign tactic that I have ever seen.

For one, the Louisiana Republican Party was trying to tap into the intra-party division that has existed between some influential and well-known black Louisiana democratic politicians and Mary Landrieu. No matter how the state Republican Party can try to spin this slogan, its meaning and intent is all too clear. The slogan is trying to say that black folk should not vote for Mary Landrieu because of her "disrespect" of black constituencies as some of her black critics have claimed. Why is this sign so despicable? First, the sign is not attempting to promote a candidate or an idea, as most campaign signs posted on election day tend to do, but rather to deliver an ad-hominen attack on a candidate. Second, the state Republican Party is itself "disrespecting" black voters by pretending to speak on behalf of black people - or at least passing the sign off as coming from black voters disaffected with Mary Landrieu.

As anyone in the State of Louisiana knows, the Republican Party by far does not represent the state's black voters. And, furthermore, any disappointment with Mary Landrieu felt by the black population is because Mary's positions have been seen as MORE aligned with traditional conservative (i.e. Republican) policies that do not attend to the needs of the black community. The state Republican Party's pretending to reflect the complaints of Cleo Fields and other black critics of Landrieu is bad enough, but its purpose of "using" black discontent for its own selfish ends of getting Terrell elected, and not truly in advocacy of the legitimacy of the complaints of Landrieu's black critics, is downright morally wrong.

Even worse, though, is that the hope of the slogan was to boost Terrell's chances by discouraging black people to vote at all. How else can one interpret the "don't expect us" part of this slogan? In my mind, the signs were a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise black voters by encouraging them to stay home instead of casting a vote for a "disrespectful" Democratic candidate.

The Democratic Party is often accused by Republicans of using the "race card" in unseemly ways. This sleazeball and race-baiting slogan, placed where and when it was, makes the Louisiana State Republican Party no different. In fact, it almost seems worse because the state Republican Party has absolutely no interest in the policy directions and political attentions that would "respect" the black community in the ways that Cleo Fields and Landrieu's other black critics would "expect."

[UPDATE 12/8/2002 12:42AM CST: I just read the New York Times story on this election. The article comments on this tactic of discouraging black voter turnout. I just can't believe anyone would want to discourage citizens from participating in the electoral process. Energizing and turning out your own base is one thing, telling people likely not to vote for you to stay home is another. What the article points out that I didn't realize until now is that the Louisiana Republican Party also paid black people $75 a pop to stand on corners and hold up these despicable signs. Disgusting.]

No comments: