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Is This The Best Louisiana Democrats Can Do? John Bel Edwards' anti-CCSS, anti-reform rhetoric at debate doesn't bode well for his gubernatorial ambitions.

I’ll tell you, it’s pretty depressing being a Louisiana Democrat these days.

It’s hard to believe that when I moved to this state just 13 years ago, Democrats occupied six statewide offices, including Governor, as well as both U.S. Senate seats. Since that time, the GOP has proceeded to systematically demolish the Democrats’ once-dominate position in state and local government to the detriment of Louisiana’s poor and working families.

With the election of Bobby Jindal as Governor in 2008, Republicans set about dismantling our state’s already threadbare social safety net: shuttering public hospitals and mental health facilities, cutting programs for at-risk youth, blocking Medicaid expansion – and slashed higher education spending, for good measure. And, just when progressive-minded Louisianans thought they could begin weaning themselves off Prozac, Senator Mary Landrieu lost her reelection campaign in December, bringing the number of statewide offices held by the Democrats down to zero.

Team Blue Dat? More like Team Blue Period.

Given the drubbing they’ve received at the hands of the GOP, one would think Louisiana Democrats would be seeking to regroup behind a new vision and strategy that could reverse this sorry state of affairs. But instead of articulating a bold new message, Democratic leaders have opted to grouse about the Jindal Administration from the sidelines (and ineffectively, at that), while retrenching behind antiquated and unpopular policy positions aimed at appeasing the party’s traditional base.

It’s fair to say that no Democratic politician embraces this “appeasement strategy” like State Rep. John Bel Edwards, whose reactionary positions on public education are basically copied straight from the teachers unions’ playbook. As I’ve written previously, Edwards, who is running for governor, has long been an outspoken opponent of common sense education reform policies, and true to form, his edu-conservatism was on full display at a gubernatorial debate in Shreveport on Tuesday.

I’ll let Rep. Edward speak for himself below, but to briefly summarize: he ridiculed State Superintendent John White, claimed charter schools don’t support “high risk students,” and loudly rejected Common Core…all in all, a losing message.



I just noticed that I’ve been blocked on Twitter by both John Bel Edwards‘ and LaDemos, no doubt because of my past criticism of the party’s (and LFT and LAE’s) embrace of anti-education reform policies.

The Ministry of Truth doesn't tolerate dissent from Outer Party members.
The Ministry of Truth doesn’t tolerate dissent from Outer Party members.

Nevertheless, it’s ironic (in addition to being…well, totally lame) because I’m a life-long Democrat – in fact, I’ve never voted for a Republican in my life and have no plans to break that record. On the other hand, I do think it speaks volumes about those currently at the helm of the Louisiana Democratic Party. (Aside: What does one do at the helm of a rudderless ship?) If they’re that threatened by someone like me – a critical, but ultimately loyal supporter – it’s no wonder they don’t know where to begin when it comes to mounting an effective campaign against the Republicans.

Yep, still a registered Democrat.
Yep, still a registered Democrat, and no, I’m not going to stop urging LaDemos to see the light.

Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.


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