Mon, 22 May 2006 15:50:51
Jeez now I appear to be channeling Cat Stevens currently Yusuf Islam. But he was originally a nice Anglo-Greek boy named Steven Dimitri Georgiou and I’m Greek. Of course I’m not all that nice but I’m not on any terrorist watch lists either. Steven/Cat/Yusuf shouldn’t be either. End of introductory digression.
There has been lots of discussion of how the outcome of the late not so great Mayoral election could have been changed. I’m not sure that tactical shifts by the Landrieu people could have changed the outcome: the big picture broke against Mitch in the last week. Besides in my view strategy wins elections not tactics.
* C Ray As Unlikely Race Man: As the Picayune’s Lolis Eric Elie put it in his column this morning:
“In an era where the words “civil rights” have little to do with the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and everything to do with race relations Ray Nagin became a civil rights issue. Black voters may have serious reservations about some Nagin policies but these differences were seen as intra-family issues.
Black voters weren’t going to spank Nagin in public especially if white voters were going to join in the spanking.”
I think that this factor made it difficult for Mitch to win a higher percentage of the black vote. The fact that he was the*real* liberal Democrat in this race could not overcome identity politics. All the tactical scheming in the world couldn’t overcome this factor.
As wise local pundit Silas Lee has said both before and after the election Hurricane Katrina produced sympathy for C Ray in the black community that wasn’t there pre-K. It of course should have produced revulsion over his incompetence BUT many folks thought that THE MAN was picking on C Ray. Election Day produced a backlash that confirmed Mr. Lee’s thinking on this issue. Besides incompetence has rarely been punished by the voters here and C Ray is a genial incompetent.
* The Oliver Thomas Factor: Non-factor is a more accurate description. It was an open secret in political circles that Council Prez Oliver Thomas had lost faith in C Ray and was voting for Mitch. This open secret alas was never shared with the general public in the form of an endorsement. In fact Oliver was willing to predict that Mitch would win BUT only to the national press. He laid low locally.
I know that Oliver had good reasons for NOT endorsing either candidate: he had to work with the winner. BUT an endorsement from Oliver the Actor would have helped Mitch in the black community without hurting him with white voters. Oliver may be the political child of BOLD boss Jim Singleton but he is a very cautious politician: if he had run for Mayor he probably would have won. To the bold goes the gold. Holy crap I sound like Jesse Jackson now…
* Mitch’s Tactics: Lots of people have said to me that if only Mitch had done certain things tactically he would have won. There are some things that he could have done better: going after C Ray’s record more aggressively and making a stronger case for himself as a challenger; especially in the televised forums. A good friend of mine thinks that Mitch should have done more to turn out “casual” white voters. I think that all of these things MIGHT have helped but Mitch was swimming against the historical tide: his campaign was haunted by ghost of Donald Mintz and his runs for Mayor in 1990 and 1994.
Donald Mintz was a wonderful man and would have made a much better Mayor than either Sindey Barthelemy or Marc Morial but he was not only white but Jewish. An anti-Semitic whispering campaign went on in both of his elections which was the equivalent of the too many Landrieus with too much power slander this time around. I remember flyers in both 1990 and 1994 that essentially said: don’t let THOSE people take our city away. In 2006 Mitch was slandered from both the left and the right. And it was done so late in the campaign that responding was well nigh impossible.
It’s very hard for tactics to overcome large historical factors. If Mitch had been willing to use Rovian scorched political earth tactics against C Ray he *might* have been able to pull it out. BUT the cost would have been too high: Rovian tactics win elections but they’re one of the reasons that Bush’s popularity is in a free fall.
* The Oyster-Adrastos Theory Comes Alive: Hmm that sounds vaguely Framptonesque. The theory of course is that Republicans both nationally and statewide wanted C Ray re-elected in order to have him as a useful idiot/whipping boy for the GOP. As Johnny Winter would surely put it the theory is still alive and well and supported by Bush’s election night phone call to his bobo C Ray: “Nagin said Bush was pleased with the result of Saturday’s election. “He said ‘I’ve been through the storm with you and we’ve gone through some tough times together. And I’d rather continue the rebuild with you in that mode because I understand what you’re all about and I feel comfortable with that ‘ ” Nagin said.”
I hope C Ray doesn’t sit by his phone waiting for his big shot Repub buddies to help him out. The White House will drop him like a hot potato: they usually slime betray and abandon their allies; just ask Tony Blair or former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
* Local Media Bias: Yeah I know Mitch got all the major endorsements but with the exception of Gambit’s Clancy DuBos all the local print and TV pundits were hard on Mitch and gave C Ray a pass. The TV people especially WWL’s Dennis Woltering and WDSU’s Norman Robinson were amazingly soft on C Ray during the campaign. Why? C Ray is colorful shoots from the lip and he’s charmed the hell out of the local media. They were briefly hard on C Ray post-K but they have fallen back into their wicked wicked pre-K ways.
This bias played itself out most spectacularly in the coverage of Doug Brinkley’s book “The Great Deluge.” The local press corps made it sound as if the book was a wall-to-wall attack on C Ray. I’m about halfway through the book and while Brinkley is hard on C Ray political commentary is only part of it. Brinkley has been depicted as a sort of academic Captain Ahab who is obsessed with C Ray but that’s untrue. Much of the book deals with people who were directly affected by the storm and the many people who stepped up and made a difference. Shame on the local press corps for swallowing the Nagin camp’s spin hook line and sinker.
That’s the end of my first whack at what I suspect will be an ongoing discussion of what happened. I see signs already that the Democratic circular firing squad is forming. Me I think that C Ray *won* the election as opposed to Mitch losing it. The real losers are the people of New Orleans; especially residents of areas like New Orleans East and the lower Ninth who voted for C Ray and are about to get a royal screwing at the hands of fat cat developers.