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Louisiana editorial roundup

July 24, 2019

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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July 22

The Houma Courier on a state senator’s controversial Facebook post:

A state senator has gotten into some hot water over a social media post he made during the recent Essence Festival in New Orleans.

Rather than celebrating the immense and diverse pool of talented entertainers and others who delighted and educated the massive crowds, state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, took to Facebook to make a racially divisive statement about the Democratic politicians who appeared at the festival.

“So as this year’s Essence Festival ends I am left to wonder why any black American would want to see acceleration to the inevitable time when other non-white citizens have the voting power to overwhelm and displace African Americans,” Appel wrote. “But, as in the past, by block voting for Democrats and by ignoring the logic of border and immigration control offered by Republicans, that is exactly what they are doing.”

Although it’s certainly no surprise to hear politicians talking about politics on Facebook, it is deeply troubling that Appel seems to have so much trouble treating individuals as individuals rather than treating an entire race of human beings as one monolithic group.

This kind of thinking is never useful and can be immensely damaging. He manages to cast a condescending view toward black voters even as he seeks to drive a wedge between them and other minority voters, all with a backdrop of fear-mongering.

It’s no wonder his post drew such widespread criticism.

“Every year, people from all walks of life gather in NOLA to honor African American heroes and empower African American women,” Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted. “These sorts of comments from Sen. Appel are outrageous and disrespectful to the @essencefest supporters who show up every year.”

It might be naïve to think that people can look entirely beyond race, but it is disappointing that such a powerful state official is so determined to divide people on the basis of race.

Appel is free to think and say what he wants, but his critics are also free to judge his comments and the mindset that seems to lurk behind them.

Essence Fest is a wonderful annual celebration that draws tens of thousands of people to New Orleans. The last thing anyone needs is for a politician to inject such nakedly racial politics into what should be a source of pride for Louisiana.

Online: www.houmatoday.com

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July 22

The Advocate on a Louisiana police officer’s threatening post about U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

Freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has her share of critics across the United States, including quite a few in deep-red Louisiana, where the congresswoman’s far-left views make her a frequent target of conservative wrath.

But the best way to settle political differences is in the voting booth. If Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas come to represent the mainstream views of her party, that’s a legitimate issue for voters here and elsewhere to hash out during the 2020 elections.

Threatening an elected official with violence, though, is a civic sacrilege in a representative democracy, and it’s especially repugnant when that threat comes from an officer sworn to uphold law and order.

Little wonder, then, that Gretna police officer Charlie Rispoli attracted national attention — and widespread condemnation — for suggesting in a Facebook post that Ocasio-Cortez “needs a round, and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve.” Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson fired Rispoli ... along with another officer, Angelo Varisco, who had registered a “like” for Rispoli’s post.

That ugly “round” pun, playing on the congresswoman’s past work as a bartender and hinting that she should be shot, showed an appalling lack of judgment.

Rispoli’s social media rant was an especially grievous lapse for a police officer who’s supposed to keep a cool head in navigating conflicts. But sadly, this hasn’t been a season to expect restraint from those in authority. President Donald Trump already placed Ocasio-Cortez at the center of controversy when he recently suggested that she and three other Democratic congresswomen of color should go back to where they came from, a racist remark that floated banishment, rather than the ballot box, as a way to resolve political conflict.

Trump’s tweetstorm seemed like the rhetorical rock bottom, but Rispoli dug the hole even deeper, arguing that a member of Congress should be silenced with a gun.

Here in Louisiana, we have a ready lesson in what political assassination looks like. The walls of the state Capitol still bear the scars from the day in 1935 when a citizen pointed a pistol at Gov. Huey Long, setting in motion a tragedy that left the governor mortally wounded. Two summers ago, U.S. House Republican whip Steve Scalise, a Jefferson Parish Republican, narrowly avoided death when a gunman opened fire on GOP members of Congress near Washington, D.C.

American presidents have been felled by bullets, too, and in 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists shot up the U.S. House of Representatives, wounding five members of Congress.

Such violence is a reminder that democracy is a fragile thing, an institution held together by a common commitment to civil discourse.

Officer Charlie Rispoli failed that commitment when he promoted violence against a member of Congress, and his lapse of judgment has brought shame on the community he’s supposed to serve.

Online: www.theadvocate.com

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July 21

American Press on an increase in women running for Louisiana Legislature:

Women are expected to play a bigger role in the next Louisiana Legislature. Change is expected because term limits are opening 47 of the 144 seats, and at least 20 new women and 23 female incumbents have already announced their candidacies.

The Advocate reported that the Legislature has never had more than 25 women lawmakers. Now, there are 18 women in the House and 5 in the Senate, or only 15.9 percent of the total seats. The national average is 29 percent.

Melanie Oubre, leader of Emerge Louisiana, said, “It’s a start. We have been laser focused on this fall. This is an opportunity to get women to the table.” She said her organization is part of a national effort to recruit and train women to run for elective office as Democrats.

State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, has been reaching out to Republican women to run. Camille Conaway of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry is also recruiting women. Her organization has held seven boot camps around the state.

Hewitt said, “We don’t come anywhere near being representative of the demographics of our state. But we can build up our bench strength.” Women make up 55 percent of the state’s registered voters, or 1.63 million of the state’s 2.96 million registered voters.

Few women have ever held leadership posts in the Legislature, The Advocate said. All House speakers and Senate presidents have been white men. Since 1972, the heads of the powerful money committees have been men.

Reflective Democracy Campaign said the 2018 mid-term elections sent a record number of women to Congress, and five states elected enough women to comprise more than 40 percent of their legislatures. Its survey found that women who started early, raised a lot of money and took advantage of the various outreach technologies, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, had a much better shot at winning.

A 2019 Rutgers University study showed 2,131 women, or 28.9 percent of the 7,383 state legislators in the United States, are women.

Nationally, women lean toward the Democratic Party platforms, but Hewitt said that doesn’t hold true in Louisiana, where several woman legislators are among its most conservative members. Hewitt said she is proud to be among that number.

Women are more diligent about doing whatever it takes to make government work. State Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, for example, sponsored sales tax legislation in 2018, worked diligently to get it approved and it helped stabilize the state budget. We look forward to seeing more women in the state Legislature.

Online: https://www.americanpress.com

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