New Orleans is experiencing monuments fatigue according to four leading contenders to replace Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Tyler Bridges of the Advocate quotes several of the front-runners in a front pager from Monday’s dead tree edition:
The monuments are serving as a huge distraction to this entire campaign,” said Desiree Charbonnet, a former Municipal Court judge who has won attention by collecting the biggest campaign war chest.
“We have way bigger fish to fry,” added Charbonnet, who is African-American. “They’re down. They’re probably going to stay down. The next move is to discuss what everyone can agree on to replace them.”
First of all, the phrase “war chest” is one of the lamest clichés of political journalism. It should be sent to the same place they’re storing Lee, Davis, and Beauregard. If I weren’t opposed to capital punishment, I’d advocate the phrase be led to the gallows or taken out back and shot. Enough already.
The leading candidates: Desiree Charbonnet, Michael Bagneris, Latoya Cantrell, and Troy Henry are African-American. They’re all eager to be the crossover candidate who reaches the 36% of voters who are white, which is why they’re downplaying the monuments mishigas. Charbonnet has already proposed an OTT anti-crime package in the hopes of attracting white law-and-order voters. It does nothing for me or other white liberals who are a substantial chunk of the 36%. It would also be wise for Charbonnet not to say the monuments are “probably going to stay down.” That just generates uncertainty and more questions on an issue she wants to avoid.
The most amusing quote Bridges got out of the candidates came from businessman Troy Henry. He ran against Mitch Landrieu and finished a distant second with 13.8% of the vote in 2010. He’s best know for his friendship and business partnership with Wendell (Bunk) Pierce. Here’s Henry putting his foot in his mouth:
Henry said he supported the removal of the Battle of Liberty Place monument, which commemorated a white supremacist militia that fought in the city’s streets against Louisiana’s biracial Reconstruction-era government in 1874.
“It was a tribute to something heinous,” he said. “The other ones, quite frankly, I don’t know enough about the details and backgrounds of those folks,” meaning Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard.
That’s right ladies and germs, a man who wants to be Mayor of New Orleans, with its tri-centennial year on the horizon, is either a historical ignoramus or wants to duck the issue so badly that he’s willing to look like one. It reminds me of the just ousted White House communications director who don’t know Mooch about history. Don’t blame me for that groaner: I got it from First Draft pun consultant James Karst.
One candidate who is willing to discuss the monuments is a guy named Frank Scurlock. He was opposed to removal and was on the periphery of the Lost Cause Fest demonstrations. It’s unclear how many locals are still sitting emotional hillbilly shiva. Scurlock is a non-factor in the race but could get 5-10% of the vote from Republicans and unrepentant bigots. He has money but his ceiling is 15% which was Trump’s total in Orleans Parish. New Orleans is a very blue city, y’all.
Do I think the monuments issue should dominate the Mayoral race? Absolutely not but neither should it be ignored. We still need a conversation as to what to do with the removed monuments as well as a coherent policy on how to address this issue in the future. The candidates are doing themselves no favors by ducking it. They should also remember how many of the 36% are white liberals. Hillary Clinton got 81% in Orleans Parish. Repeat after me: New Orleans is a very blue city, y’all.
I’ll give the last word to former city councilman and current talk radio host Oliver Thomas. Oliver was the frontrunner to succeed Nagin in 2010 before a gambling habit and sticky fingers sent him to jail.
“It’s disingenuous,” said Thomas, a former city councilman. “When (the candidates) talk to us privately in the black community, it’s a real issue. They’re down with the brothers and sisters. But when they talk to the white press, they say we should move on. There’s one speech to the black community, and there’s another speech to the white community letting them know they’re a safe candidate.”
It’s time for less profile and more courage on this divisive issue.