Hanna: Pivoting to the Left

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Pivoting to the Left

As a candidate for governor, John Bel Edwards went to great lengths to convince voters he was what we would describe as an old-line, conservative Democrat.

After all, he presented himself as a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment country boy who represented a stark contrast to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who, without a doubt, vehemently tried to govern from the Right over the past seven-plus years.

Middle-class white voters bought in to Edwards’ message, evidenced by the strong support Edwards received among middle-class whites in his drubbing of Sen. David Vitter in the Nov. 21 general election. Though the black vote served as Edwards’ base, make no mistake, it was middle-class white voters — traditional values and all — who handed him the election.SAM HANNA

But judging by Edwards’ pre-inaugural decisions, he seems to have forgotten who brought him to the dance.
The first sign of a pivot to the Left surfaced at the beginning of December when Edwards declared he would, as governor, sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. The order apparently will end the firing of any state employee based on his or her sexual orientation. Contracts with the state held by lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals would be included in the mix as well.

Though I suspect any of us would be hard-pressed to uncover any instance of someone having been fired from a state job because they were a lesbian or a gay or a bisexual or a transgender, Edwards apparently believes it’s a problem that must be addressed through an executive order. Either that or he’s simply placating a block of voters who threw their support behind him in the fall election cycle. My money is on the latter, which means Edwards’ pending executive order is just window dressing.

In other words, it’s just political payback.
Political payback or not, the decision will rankle middle-class whites who are prone to believe elected officials sometimes go a bit too far to pander to too many disaffected minorities.
If the LGBT executive order wasn’t enough, Edwards has since managed to create the perception that he’s the welfare governor. That’s the long and short of Edwards’ recent pronouncement that he will seek a waiver from the federal government to allow food stamp recipients in Louisiana to receive their benefits without meeting a work requirement, which entails working no less than 20 hours per week at a for-profit enterprise or non-profit enterprise or enroll in a job-training program.

Earlier this year, the Jindal administration said it wouldn’t pursue the work waiver that’s available to states with high unemployment rates. Instead, come Jan. 1, some 31,000 food stamp recipients in Louisiana could lose their benefits unless they get a job or get busy trying to find work. Apparently Edwards feels the work requirement is too harsh.

Perhaps Edwards’ work waiver decision was driven by liberal special interests, which believe welfare, or food stamps, are an entitlement. Or perhaps Edwards saw first-hand the lack of job opportunities in our rural, poorer parishes in Louisiana when he was campaigning for governor and believes the work requirement would unfairly target the poor who live out in the country. If that’s the reasoning behind his decision to seek the federal waiver, fair enough.
However, perception is reality in politics, and the perception is Edwards believes food stamp recipients should be allowed to lay up on the sofa at the house watching cable television and not do anything to get them. And among middle-class whites, that’s confirmation Edwards isn’t who he said he was when he was running for governor.

Edwards still has time on his hands. He won’t take office until Jan. 11. If he’s smart, he’ll rethink his pivoting to the Left and realize that if he harbors any hope of serving more than one term, he’ll tell the Left to cool its heels.

Sam Hanna is a state
political writer.