May 21, 2006

Ray Nagin’s victory in today’s mayoral election is the worst thing that could happen as far as the city’s future is concerned. It would seem Nagin found a way to convince enough whites to join his African-American majority and buy into his delusion that New Orleans can recover from its post-Katrina nightmare with an egomaniacal, incompetent boob as its mayor. The AP quoted a part of his victory speech as follows:

“We are ready to take off. We have citizens around the country who want to come back to the city of New Orleans, and we’re going to get them all back,” Nagin said in a joyful victory speech that took on the tone of Sunday sermon.

“It’s time for us to stop the bickering,” he said. “It’s time for us to stop measuring things in black and white and yellow and Asian. It’s time for us to be one New Orleans.”

And what, exactly does that mean Mr. “Chocolate City”? Please tell us, if you will, exactly what those citizens spread out across the country are going to come back to? Because if it means coming back to what New Orleans once was and the daunting challenges it faced prior to Katrina, perhaps they ought to think twice.

You see, I don’t buy into the myth of New Orleans prior to the levee breaches that Nagin obviously believes in and promotes. Frankly, Nagin’s New Orleans was a disgrace – its predominently low-income African-American population – crime- and poverty-ridden, hopelessly dependent, and kept that way by the soft racism of low expectations and decades of reliance on Federal and state entitlement programs of any and all kinds. A population that was/is to Mayor Nagin and his ilk exactly what the same constituency across the U.S. is to the national Democratic Party – a tool taken for granted and used whenever politically expedient to play the race card and promote continued reliance on social welfare programs that have served as nothing more than a late-20th/early 21st century version of slavery.

To Mayor Nagin and those like him – black and white – the African-American sections of New Orleans were the perverbial “crazy uncle in the attic” that the city’s leaders and its Chamber of Commerce didn’t want you to see. To them, “Come to New Orleans” really meant “Come to the French Quarter and don’t dare stray outside that 10×12 block perimeter alone or after dark if you don’t want to risk your life”.

What New Orleans voted for today was not, in effect, Ray Nagin. What it really voted for was a continuation of the good ol’ boy network that has done nearly as much damage long-term as anything a levee breach could in a few days’ time. Look around the “New South” and places like Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Houston, and Dallas/Fort Worth, then compare that to what New Orleans has been for most of its African-American population: the equivalent of some wretched back-water banana republic lost in time, segregated from the socio-economic advances experienced by other cities in the region.

The victory of Ray Nagin today is a huge setback to any possible chance of recovery for New Orleans, for it shows to those whom New Orleans needs most – investors, corporations, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, tourists, etc. – that the people of New Orleans do truly understand the dire predicament it is in. At a time when strong, competent leadership was needed to forge a new beginning and a frank dialogue and understanding of the issues New Orleans must address in both the short and long terms if it is indeed to survive, its people chose to remain in denial and show the world that New Orleans is really not serious about its future.

Many of the people I spoke with during my visit last week expressed the opinion that today’s election was not just a vote for mayor, but a referendum on the city’s future and whether the difficult times ahead were going to be worth it in the long run. Today the people of New Orleans had their chance. Unfortunately, they chose poorly, and I’m afraid the city is in for a rude awakening.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:16 | Comments (2)
2 Comments »
  1. I agree with your pre-K assessment of New Orleans, but I disagree with your depiction of Nagin.

    I voted for Mayor Nagin in 2002. He was the candidate for business and positive change. After his election, Mayor Nagin helped root out corruption in city hall and tried to make the city more business friendly. He had more success in the former than the latter, but it was a positive first step. I had planned to vote for his re-election until he made the Chocolate City remark. The comment didn’t offend me or make me feel less welcome in my home town, mainly because I understood that Nagin was trying to pander, a skill which he lacks. Instead, I refused to vote for him because 1) I voted against all incumbents given the city’s lack of preparedness for Katrina; and 2) New Orleans right now depends upon the kindness of the strangers, and the rest of nation (upon whose tax dollars we depend for our recovery) viewed him as incompetent and an object of ridicule. His re-election, therefore, could jeopardize New Orleans’ recovery.

    Noggin’s re-election, however, does not disappoint me. It is a far cry from 1991 when I had to choose between voting for a crook (Edwin Edwards) and a racist (David Duke), whose small-mindedness is surpassed only by his stupidity; yes, I voted for the thief. I believe Nagin will do a decent job while facing impossible conditions (and give comedians much fodder for jokes for as long as they look).

    In sum, Nagin is many things, but he is not a Marion Barry. Your comment shows a lack of understanding of the situation in New Orleans, though your reaction does not surprise me (a reinforcement of my second reason not to vote for Mayor Nagin). While Mayor Nagin did benefit from the racial divide in New Orleans (he received a supermajority of the black vote), he still needed at least 20% of white vote. How do Nagin get this vote? By getting Republicans to vote for him. First, many Republicans refused to vote for Lt. Gov. Landrieu because his sister is a United States Senator with a liberal voting record. (It did not help Landrieu that news organizations called his family the Louisiana’s Kennedy’s. E.g., http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=1985216). More importantly, the lieutenant governor, for all of his gifts of glib, pandered worse than Nagin: Lt. Gov. Landrieu said that he would appoint former mayors Sidney Barthelme and Marc Moral to important city advisory committees. (http://www.nola.com/newslogs/topnews/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_topnews/archives/2006_05_07.html). Republicans do not view the former mayors’ honesty and ability in particularly high regard. Landrieu’s election, in their opinion, would be a return to the bad ol’ days, or probably more accurately, the worse ol’ days. Finally, the Republican candidate who received the most votes, Rob Couhig, endorsed Nagin. (http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/neworleans/index.ssf?/base/news-5/114784737360150.xml&coll=1).

    I hope and pray that you will continue to help us rebuild. If not, I hope and pray for you.

    Comment by rxwhite — May 21, 2006 @ 2:07 am


  2. Thanks rxwhite for the comment – I appreciate both your feeback and the invaluable perspective you bring, and I hope you won’t be a stranger. Of course, you are correct – if you are a conservative in NO, all you can do when you’re in that booth and have that ballot staring at you straight in the face is weigh the alternatives, choose the best of a poor lot, and hope for the best. Until Republicans and conservatives are able to make real inroads into the political machines that have held the power for so many years, there’s not a lot of chance for real change.

    Rather than speaking from any real local knowledge perspective about Ray Nagin, my comments reflect what I believe to be the view of many – if not most – people who’ve watched Nagin’s (and Gov. Blanco’s) pre- and post-Katrina performances from afar. We’ve seen the pictures of the buses under water, we’re aware of the finger-pointing and blame game, and we can’t help compare his performance in the face of desperate circumstances with, say, a Giuliani who was not afraid to take charge and speak as a leader for his city after the 9/11 attacks. In Nagin’s defense, maybe that is unfair, but he is the mayor, and the buck has to stop somewhere.

    To me, this election was of the utmost importance for NO’s future, for people who want to help and contribute to NO’s recovery have to have some measure of confidence that their money and efforts will not be wasted. Unfortunately, Nagin just doesn’t instill that kind of confidence in me, and I’m sure this holds true for others as well. Now it may very well be that enough NO voters knew Landrieu all too well and chose to give Nagin another chance. For his city’s sake, I hope he’s up to the task. We’ll just have to see how it all turns out.

    One final thing: you don’t have to worry about me not doing my part as best I can to help in the rebuilding effort. In fact, Dollar Bill and I plan on discussing this very thing in a few days. Our goal is to unite a number of bloggers in an effort to keep NO and the Mississippi Gulf Coast from slipping beneath the radar screen. If you have contacts and knowledge of other bloggers who would like to be a part of this effort, please let me know.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — May 21, 2006 @ 11:08 pm


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