The Festivus Election

Jan 16, 2014 by

It’s been a dull and somewhat dispiriting campaign for those of us who follow NOLA politics for its entertainment value. I live in Council District B and Latoya Cantrell has been re-elected without opposition. It’s probably a good thing that she didn’t, uh, roll, out the whole Tucks terlet paper thing until after qualifying.

The good news is that Cynthia Hedgehog Morrell and Jackie Clarkson may return to the Council. Btw, when I said good news I was referring to how these veteran pols bring the crazy to the Council chamber. If Jackie loses, I don’t know what the yellow blogger is gonna do, if he had any, I’d fear for his sanity.

The Mayoral campaign is showing a bit of life, not that the result is in any doubt, but people are trash talking Mayor Mitchmo with a vengeance. First there was PR flack Cheron Brylski with her Mitch as productive asshole email. Initially, I wrote that off as one of his big sister’s friends butting in on his campaign, but I wonder if it wasn’t a precooked response to a brand spanking new piece by Tyler Bridges at the Lens:

On the day he became mayor nearly four years ago, Mitch Landrieu delivered a stirring inaugural address. He concluded it by repeating a slogan from his campaign.

New Orleanians, he urged, should unify: “One team. One fight. One voice. One city.”

Since then, Landrieu has worked hard to move the city forward. But he has displayed little patience for those who aren’t on the team. While jovial and gregarious in public, he often lacerates and retaliates against those who question that one voice — his.

The Lens interviewed more than 30 New Orleans residents who said that the mayor mistreated or punished them after they expressed a contrary view, or that they had firsthand knowledge of the mayor’s heavy-handed behavior. They include current and former elected officials, business people, a wide range of civic activists, attorneys and an opponent in the 2010 mayoral race.

The article is well done and undoubtedly accurate. There are dozens of stories out there about the Mayor’s dickishness and malakatude. But while that’s all quite interesting and revealing to those who don’t follow local politics very closely, it’s not an effective tactic to defeat Landrieu at the ballot box. Judge Michael Bagneris, for some obscure reason, somehow thinks he can ride insider discontent to victory. If that is, you believe he’s playing to win. I don’t. I think he’s playing for payback.

I wish I were the first one to apply the Seinfeldian holiday of Festivus to this dreary campaign, but Stephanie Grace beat me to it:

Something about judge-turned-last minute mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris’ campaign kickoff got me thinking of, of all things, “Seinfeld.”

Maybe it was because the event fell on Christmas week, but as I listened to Bagneris and his supporters outline the many, many, many problems they have with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, my mind went straight to the classic sitcom’s secular holiday of “Festivus” and its ritual “airing of grievances.”

I considered not giving Stephanie credit but I know her and was afraid that she’d retaliate by not throwing anything to me during Muses if she’s riding this year. It’s spot on but the Festivus campaign will not work for several reasons:

First, New Orleans Mayors win re-election. The original productive asshole, Dutch Morial, was returned to office. Nobody thought Sidney Barthelemy was a good Mayor except for city contractors and his relatives and he was re-elected. Hell, even the hapless C Ray Nagin won a second term despite the absence of that exploding economic pie that he so memorably promised. He, of course, beat the current occupant of the office. So it goes.

Second, even though *all* re-election campaigns focus on the incumbent’s record and personality, it HELPS TO BE FOR SOMETHING. It’s true in national, statewide, and local races, you cannot beat an incumbent by running a predominantly negative campaign. Ask John Kerry and Willard Mittbot Romney how that worked for them.

Finally, to beat an incumbent with a decent record and high favorability ratings, the challenger must have a pulse. Bagneris comes off as a fairly pleasant man in his deadly dull teevee spots. I tried to find them online, but could not, which is just as well because all I can remember from them is Bagneris fiddling with his glasses while an announcer recites dull facts about him. You cannot beat something with nothing. Sorry, your honor.

Just call this my Festivus post about this Festivus election.


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