Scoot: The Governor’s race – best candidate vs. political tribalism

October 10, 2019 - 1:20 pm

During the debate of the three gubernatorial candidates last night in Shreveport, Republican candidate Ralph Abraham confirmed something I have talked about on my radio talk show on WWL.

At one point in the debate with Governor John Bel Edwards, Republican Eddie Rispone and Republican Ralph Abraham, Abraham emphasized how critically important it is for voters to replace John Bel Edwards as governor of Louisiana, because he is a Democrat.

President Trump will headline a rally for Abraham and Rispone tomorrow in Lake Charles. The President has posted anti-Edwards tweets. One read: “Don’t be fooled, John Bel Edwards will NEVER be for us.” In another recent tweet, Trump emphasized the importance of forcing a runoff saying: “Keep Democrat Governor Edwards under 50% for a runoff and have a great new Republican Governor.”

It is not surprising that at the height of political tribalism in America that the race for governor in Louisiana seems to be more about replacing a Democrat with a Republican than about who is the best candidate to lead the state.

The Republican crusade to replace Governor Edwards with a Republican governor is understandable from the standpoint of the Republican Party – but it does feed the political tribalism that is defining America.

John Bel Edwards is a moderate Democrat. He is pro-life and pro-gun rights. Edwards would not have won with a liberal agenda. But it is also important to consider that Edwards, a Democrat, was running against the highly dysfunctional Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who did his best to ignore his responsibility to serve his ego-driven fantasy of being President of the United States. Also consider that Edwards ran against Republican David Vitter, who had a tarnished image from the hypocrisy of standing up as a moral leader while being caught paying a prostitute for sex. As a moderate Democrat, John Bel Edwards was an obvious choice.

However, even though polls show Edwards with a strong lead that could mean he wins over 50% of the vote eliminating any runoff, the challenge Edwards faces is navigating the tide of partisan divide.

Rispone and Abraham running as two Republicans will split the vote that cares most about replacing Edwards with a Republican – any Republican. If there were only one Republican challenging Edwards, the goal of putting a Republican in the Governor’s Mansion would be easier.

President Trump comes to the state tomorrow to support two Republican candidates without endorsing either. This further accentuates the state of political tribalism. If there were one Republican and President Trump could campaign for that candidate – his appearance might be more effective. No doubt President Trump will make another trip to the state to support one of the Republican candidates if there is a runoff.

What we seem to have lost in this country is fighting for the idea that the candidate most competent to run the state wins – not the candidate whose political affiliation supersedes competence.

It feels as if the underlying motivation for replacing Edwards with a Republican is the embarrassment many Republicans sense over the reality that our state is the only state in the Deep South that has a Democrat as governor.

Considering that politics has become a contact sport in America – the election returns Saturday night might easily be mistaken for the post-game coverage of the LSU-Florida game.

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