Friday, October 31, 2008

Louisiana Voters are Irrelevant in presidential election

Thursday, October 30th, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana voters are gearing up for election day in record numbers. Spurred on by the presidential election, more than one quarter of a million people cast absentee ballots which is an all-time record. And for good reason. This is certainly one of the most important elections in modern history. But if you live in Louisiana, your vote is looked on as irrelevant to the process. Your sway on who will win American Idol has more influence than who will be the next president of the United States.
Louisiana has been written off as a “red state,” which means, for all practical purposes, your vote does not count. You might as well write in “none of the above” or leave a hanging chad. Why? Look no further than the Electoral College. We are about to elect our country’s and the world’s most powerful leader, but the system we have in place causes us to abdicate our right to have our vote count.
Under the present system, the Electoral College rules require that all the state’s electoral votes go to the winner, no matter how close the election might have been. If, for example, Obama gets 45% of the Louisiana votes, he still gets 0% of the Louisiana electoral votes. If McCain ends up winning by one vote in Louisiana, he receives all of Louisiana’s electoral votes. In fact, it is mathematically possible for one of the candidates to get 49% of the popular vote and 100% of electoral votes. Go figure.
Right now, there are fewer than 10 competitive “battleground” states that are receiving the focus and the money from the presidential candidates. In a state like Louisiana, where McCain will easily win, or a state like New York, where Obama is a cinch, why even vote for president? All of the electoral delegates get assigned to the winner, and we know who the winner is going to be, so your vote for president, for all practical purposes, has been taken away.
Now when it comes to other statewide races on the ballot, like Governor or U.S. Senator, strangely enough, we use the popular vote. So what is so important about having the electoral vote system that allows Louisiana voters and the voters in the majority of the states in this country to be disenfranchised in a presidential election? An idiosyncratic system that on four occasions in our nation’s history has created a quagmire where the winner of the largest number of popular votes did not win the largest number of electoral votes, and therefore did not become president. Remember some guy named Al Gore?
The system in place was confected in the early days of the republic by our founders, where electors were supposed to be independent agents exercising their best judgment in choosing a presidential candidate from a list of several contenders. Why? Because the Framers of the Constitution, our Founding Fathers, the champions of democracy, did not trust the voters to make an intelligent choice. Check out these quotes from the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
“The extent of the country renders a popular vote impossible, that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates.” Delegate Mason, July 17, 1787.
“A popular election in this case is radically vicious. The ignorance of the people would put it in the power of some one set of men and throughout the Union, and acting in concert, to delude them into any appointment.” Delegate Gerry. July 25, 1787.
“The people are uninformed, and would be misled by a few designing men.” Delegate Johnson, July 19, 1787.
So what this all comes down to is that the Founding Fathers were trying their best to insulate the selection of the president from the whims of the public. They didn’t trust voters then and the system does not trust you now to make your choice. So because of conservative political persuasions, Louisiana is left out of any serious attention from the presidential candidates.
Since receiving their respective nominations, neither McCain nor Obama have set foot in Louisiana. Neither candidate has said a word about hurricane recovery, wetlands protection, or supporting a larger percentage of oil and gas revenues for the state off the Louisiana coast. From each of their perspectives, Louisiana issues are irrelevant in the current campaign. Their just is no political capital to gain by either coming to or speaking about the Bayou State.
By being so out of the mix, just what else is Louisiana missing? How about the lack of all that attention? No knocks on the door by college students from out of state with leaflets about what an old, unhealthy guy John McCain is. No robo-calls in the middle of dinner telling you that Barack Obama is a terrorist. And no presidential TV ads. In Louisiana, you are left out of the national political bombardment that is taking place in the likes of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida where those voters are taught that McCain is a Bush clone and that Obama will socialize the country. Besides those paid for by state and local candidates, all we get are ads about bladder control and erectile dysfunction.
There are a number of reforms being considered for future elections. A proportional electorial vote by congressional districts is as compromise solution that makes sense. In the meantime, don’t forget to go vote for a number of candidates and propositions on the ballot next Tuesday. Your vote might make the difference in many of these local and state races. That is except for President. In this election, you really are irrelevant.
"We've said it before, and we'll say it again - the American Electoral College system sucks. The Daily IowanThe Daily Iowan. (23 Sept 2004). Editorial/Opinion. "Long past time to fix Electoral College."
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published in a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana. You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bobby in Bossier Parish

The guv stopped by the Bossier Parish Courthouse the other afternoon for a short Town Hall meeting, news interviews and a picture with a group of high-schoolers.
Not his first visit to Benton, and surely won't be his last. Bossier Parish is only one of two parishes in Louisiana with more Republicans registered than Democrats.
Next month, after the election, he's off to Iowa. Looks like he is starting early on a run for 2012; apparently he believes the polls and is looking for an Obama victory.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Senate Race: Which Democrat do you like better?

I am so unexcited by the Louisiana Senate race that I haven't posted anything about it yet. Mary Landrieu has 2 terms under her (ample) belt and has built up some deep support throughout the state.

John Kennedy. How can you trust anything he says? He was all for Kerry in 2004 when he was running against David Vitter and was actually considered more liberal than Landrieu. Now, he says he is a mavericky Republican like John McCain. I can think of better adjectives than 'maverick', but I won't use them here. Check their websites and make up your mind, none of my sage advice in this one.

On the Race for the Fourth Congressional District
The Fourth District Congressional race is in full swing. Runoffs will be held on general election day, November 4th, for the Republicans and Democrats. The election itself will be held in December. On the Republican side, Chris Gorman has just released an ad decrying the $700,000,000,000 bailout plan in this video:

This seems to be in contradiction to the wonderful words he had for Jim McCrery:"Louisiana’s Fourth District has been honorably served by Congressman Jim McCrery for many years. At the same time we honor him for his service, we look to the future and the opportunities that await us. I am a conservative Republican and I plan to bring our shared Louisiana values to the United States Congress."
I hate to tell Mr. Gorman, but McCrery voted for the bailout. The man he is praising is one of those big spenders he talks about in the video.
The race between Gorman and Dr. John Fleming promises to get very nasty.Democrats also face a runoff between Paul Carmouche and Willie Banks, but this one will be milquetoast compared to the Republican race.
There are also two independents on the ballot in December, Gerard Bowen, Jr. and Chester Kelley. My choice is Gerard Bowen, Jr., who says "If we keep sending the same kind of people to congress, we will keep getting the same results".

Think about it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Visit with Bobby Jindal (for $25,000)

Thursday, October 9th, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
For 25 GRAND
So you are going to the LSU – Florida game this Saturday night in Gainesville… right? And while you are there, why not stop off at a local residence in nearby Alachua, Florida. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will be there to greet you. For only $10,000, you can have a photo op with him. If you bring $25,000, you can participate in a roundtable discussion with Jindal. Who could possibly pass up an opportunity like this?
The fund raiser, by the way, is being co hosted by a large group of prominent Florida Republicans, including the Florida House Speaker and the House Majority Leader. (To read the full invitation, go to the homepage of This is just one of a series of political events that have either featured the Louisiana governor, or have been given in his behalf around the country in the past few months.
Vice President Dick Cheney was in Louisiana earlier this week to help raise money on behalf of several Republican candidates for Congress. A photo op with the VP would only cost you $2300. But here’s the difference. Cheney is a lame duck on his way out. Bobby Jindal’s stature as the Republican Party’s fair haired boy for the future continues to grow. And when people give you $25,000 just to sit around and talk for a while, he obviously has his sights set beyond the Louisiana borders.
The 08 presidential election is still some three weeks away, and anything can happen. But partisans on both sides are reading the daily tracking polls. Barack Obama’s numbers are on the rise, and Senator John McCain has an uphill battle to overcome the knock that Republican policies are a substantial cause of the present financial crisis. If McCain loses on November 4, all this talk of Jindal as a vice presidential candidate in 2012 will go by the wayside. A Louisiana Governor, merely thinking about reelection, does not fly off to Florida for the weekend and get $10,000 a pop just to have his picture taken with campaign contributors.
Why would any candidate start so early organizing and raising campaign funds for a race that is still more than four years away? This is exactly the path taken by a number of successful presidential aspirants in years past. Jindal is not the only one who was considered for vice president, not selected, then who immediately begin planning for a presidential run in the next election cycle.
Former President John Kennedy comes to mind when he made an all-out effort to be Adali Stevenson’s running mate back in 1956. Kennedy was bypassed on the ticket (just like Jindal this time around), but immediately began planning for a presidential run four years in advance. And Kennedy was just one year older than Jindal when he too missed out on the vice presidential nomination.
Former President Jimmy Carter hoped to be George McGovern’s pick at the Democratic convention in 1972. He had only been elected as Governor of Georgia less than two years earlier. Carter was a long shot, but he knew his political history. He had followed John Kennedy’s 1956 VP bid, and observed that, though unsuccessful, Kennedy’s efforts had paid great dividends in public awareness. Carter immediately began preparing for a successful presidential run that was four years away.
Bill Clinton’s first major foray into national politics occurred when he was enlisted to speak at the 1988 Democratic national convention, introducing candidate Michael Dukakis. Clinton’s address, scheduled to last 15 minutes, became a debacle as he gave a notoriously dull speech that lasted over a half an hour (he joked about the length of his speech at the 1992 convention).
Despite this setback, Bill Clinton prepared immediately after the 88 election for a run in 1992 against incumbent President George H. W. Bush. In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, President Bush seemed unbeatable, and several potential Democratic candidates – notably New York Governor Mario Cuomo –passed on what seemed to be a lost cause. But, ala Jindal, Clinton was persistent and worked tirelessly for the nomination four years in advance.
How about forays of Louisiana politicians who waded into the national political scene? We all know of Governor Huey Long’s interest in running for president back in the 1930s. And former Louisiana Governor John McKeithen was a serious contender for Vice President on a Hubert Humphrey ticket in 1968. Before his death, Senator Russell Long told me Humphrey had indicated to him he would pick McKeithen. At the last minute, he opted out for Maine Senator Edmund Muskie.
And you might be surprised at this Louisiana politician who considered running for president back in 1980. Would you believe Edwin Edwards? The former Louisiana Governor was at the height of his popularity in 1976, and though a democrat, actively supported then President Gerald Ford for re-election. Edwards felt Jimmy Carter was a light weight, and never had much respect for him.
About a year into Carter’s term, I was on airplane with the governor flying back to Baton Rouge following a dedication of a hospital up in Northeast Louisiana where I had been elected as state senator. As was my habit, I brought a book along to read during the flight. On this trip, I was reading “Marathon-The Pursuit of the Presidency” by longtime Washington correspondent Jules Witcover. Edwards inquired as to what I was reading, and I told him it was a step by step guide as to how the early efforts by Carter had won him the presidency.
A few days later, Edwards called me at my home in Ferriday, asked if I still had the book, and if so, could he borrow it. I asked him if he was considering running for president. He said he was far from impressed over the job that Carter was doing in the White House, and that he was going to be making some speeches around the country just to “pick up the pulse on Carter and see what response I might get.” A few months later, Edwards came under a negative light regarding his relationship with South Korean lobbyist Tonjun Park, and any national political hopes were put on the sidelines.
Four years used to be a lifetime in both national and local politics. But experience has shown that if you want to be a viable candidate on the national scene, then it is already time to start planning for 2012. Bobby Jindal has a full plate load of problems right here in Louisiana. But so did Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush, and a host of other governors who aspired to national office. With the accolades he is receiving throughout the country and his aggressive out of state fund-raising efforts, Jindal seems to be laying the framework for a legitimate run in 2012.
“Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn’t grow up can be vice president.” Johnny Carson
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers and websites throughout the State of Louisiana. You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at
Jim also has a new book out on his views of Louisiana. You can read about it and order it by going to .
Jim’s radio show on WRNO (995 fm) from New Orleans can be heard each Sunday, from 11:00 am until 1:00 pm.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Thursday, October 2nd, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
We know that all good things have to come to an end. In Louisiana, we have tried the statehood thing for 205 years, but “maybe it’s just not working out.” Hey, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has flirted with the same idea up in Alaska. The federal government continues to shortchange Louisiana on virtually every federal program, from hurricane recovery funds to a fair shake on offshore oil royalties. So since Sarah Palin has raised the issue, maybe we in Louisiana should start considering the option of seceding from the Union and becoming our own nation.
You have got to hand it to those folks in Alaska. They have done a pretty shrewd job of figuring out how to lead the nation in raising taxes per capita, yet making the rest of the country pay for it. Alaska is number one in spending for residents, and its tax burden is 2 1/2 times the national average per capita. Its spending is twice the national average per capita. Their trick up north is that Alaska’s government spends enormous sums on its own citizens, and taxes the rest of us to pay for it.
For all practical purposes, Alaska is an adjunct member of OPEC. More than 89% of the state’s income is produced through four different taxes on oil and gas. And consider this. The state government takes three quarters of the value of a barrel of oil before the oil is permitted to leave the state. Alaskans pay no income tax, no statewide sales tax, and no property tax. And every a resident gets a yearly check for about $2000 from oil revenues, plus an additional $1200 confected by Sarah Palin last year to take advantage of rising oil prices.
The disparities of the two states, one north and one south, are dramatic when it comes to receiving federal funds from Washington. A typical example is the comparison of federal reimbursement to nursing homes that take care of the poor under the Medicaid program. The same patient that only receives $79 a day in Louisiana receives $317 per day in Alaska. When it comes to federal highway funds, Alaska receives $1.30 for every dollar it sends to Washington as do other states like California and New York. What’s Louisiana’s take? A little over $.90 back for each dollar sent to the National Highway Fund.
They play hardball in Alaska, while in Louisiana, the state’s leadership for years has often been pictured sticking out their hat and almost begging for a handout. As Governor, Palin has carried on a flirtation with the Alaska Independence Party (AKIP), and her husband was a card carrying member for a number of years. In an address to the party convention this past spring, Palin told the secessionists: “Keep up the good work.”
Palin has received her share of criticism for her secessionist sympathies. The Washington Monthly recently said that the idea of succession is “un – American.” Oh come on now. Maybe those in the press that are taking pot shots at the Alaska Governor for considering secession need to brush up on their American history. A good starting point might be the Declaration of Independence that clearly states:
“That these United colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states…… and that, as free and Independent states, they have the full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all of the things which Independent states may of right do.”
And what better source than Thomas Jefferson in his first inaugural address who declared, “if there be among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
It’s not just a phenomenon stirred up by the residents of the last frontier where there is a movement to break away from the Union. This past July, according to a Zogby poll, more than 20% of US adults—one in five, about the same number of American colonists who supported revolt against England in 1775—agreed that “any state or region has the right to peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic.” A number of polls in recent years have indicated that almost half of Louisiana citizens agree that “the United States system is broken and cannot be fixed by traditional two– party politics and elections.”
The bottom line is that Alaska shares the same abundance of natural resources as those found in Louisiana. In fact, when you consider seafood, sulfur, agriculture and the largest port in America, the Bayou State has a lot more wealth beneath the ground, on the ground, and along its waterways than our compatriots up in the Yukon. Alaska has rattled its sabers, stood up to big oil in behalf of its citizens, and demanded more than its fair share of the pie from the federal government.
In comparison, Louisiana has been groveling for years to get a bigger slice of the offshore oil payouts. Louisiana officials declared a big victory last year when the feds agreed to give a pittance of $20 million a year for the next 10 years. Alaska would have considered such a settlement chump change, and would probably have started a secession movement along with a wall around its borders.
Seceding from the Union and becoming its own nation might prove to be an attractive option for Louisiana. If Mississippi wants to join us, we might even agree to create “a coastal nation of Louisissippi.” The French would be appalled, but who cares.
As for leadership? I would probably stick with Bobby Jindal as president. But if LSU coach Les Miles pulls off another national championship, he would certainly be a contender. If Lindy Boggs were a bit younger, she would be my first choice as Ambassador to the United States. Harry Connick Jr. would fill the bill nicely. We would definitely need to bring back General Russel Honore’, who told me how much he loves Louisiana, as our Secretary of Defense. A piece of cake here, since the US would be our protector, just like it is for Mexico and Canada. And for free. Our national flag would be a combination of black and gold and purple and gold, and we would certainly want Randy Newman to write our national anthem.
Over the past 200 years, Louisiana has been in a marriage of convenience. In 1913, the state entered this marriage with the rest of the US, and got a lot out of it. They received access to the American markets, and the flow of goods through New Orleans. It was a two way street and benefits flowed both ways. But by the middle of the 20th century, the bargain disappeared. Both the oil and the royalties flowed out of Louisiana with little to show in return.
So don’t knock Sarah Palin when she flirts with secession. Alaska has cut a good deal for itself. Maybe Louisiana should rise up and do the same
“We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry, because we didn't think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre.” ~Dick Gregory
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published on a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana. You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.