Sun, 21 May 2006 05:00:00
“To some of the folks who went on the other side you went to the red light district. I forgive you.” The Reverend C Ray Nagin 5/20/2006
The one good thing about this election is that it’s over. The people have spoken and they may be nuts but they have spoken. Let’s start with the good news: there will be 4 new members of the city council and I won’t have the Queen Of Hearts Jay Batty and Renee Gill-Pratfall to kick around any more. That’s the glass is half full part of this post.
Here’s the glass is half empty bit: C Ray was re-elected. Mitch ran a valiant if overly polite campaign but I think he was done in by things beyond his control. A tip of the hat to Jeffrey of the Library Chronicles for his prescient post about identity politics and how it would enable C Ray to win. Jeffrey was right.
Another key to C Ray’s victory was that he got out of the way and allowed his veteran campaign consultant Jim Carvin to run the show during the runoff. Carvin was instrumental in stage managing C Ray’s subtle message of fear and in helping Nagin to assemble his weirdo coalition. One component was conservative whites who hate the Landrieus and don’t care for black folks either but think of C Ray as “one of the good ones.” Another component was black people who were worried that THE MAN was about to take away their hold on power in New Orleans. As proven by Presidents Beavis in 2004 and Tricky Dick in 1972 fear of change and of the other is a very powerful electoral tool.
C Ray’s victory speech was typically bizarre. He started by quotin’ scriptures and later startled his audience by thanking President Bush for his help. Yes folks it was Oyster-Adrastos theory time. I heard a few people in the crowd gasp but C Ray boogied on in his ADD way.
There was one part of C Ray’s speech that was an in yo’ face shot at Landrieu supporters. That’s right the quote that began this post: “…you went to the red light district. I forgive you.“ Gee Ray thanks a lot but you’re sounding a bit too much like dangerblond for comfort. Some of us went to Storyville willingly and are proud to be whores…
Finally C Ray’s victory tonight is eerily reminiscent of Sidney Barthelemy’s 1990 re-election campaign win. (Jim Carvin also worked for Sidney. So much for C Ray being purer than Caesar’s wife.) In 1986 Sidney ran against my good buddy Dollar Bill Jefferson. Sidney was elected by a coalition of middle class blacks and white voters just like C Ray in 2002. As Mayor Sidney was if anything even more incompetent than C Ray. Scary no? In 1990 lawyer and civic activist Donald Mintz ran against Sidney. Donald was an outstanding candidate: smart articulate and a staunch liberal. He was also probably too much of a gentleman for his own good. Sound familiar? Sidney was able to whip up fears in the black community that THE MAN was coming and was re-elected by the same people who opposed him 4 years earlier. History alas has repeated itself. I was hoping that the crisis would break the pattern but it did not. Debrisville has a long history of tolerating incompetence which the voters just extended for another 4 years.
EPILOGUE: Sidney Barthelemy’s second term was even worse than his first: crime exploded and the city continued its decline. The main difference between C Ray and Sidney is that C Ray isn’t perceived to be corrupt. Otherwise the parallels are eerie. <cueing the theme from The Twilight Zone>