Thursday, October 28, 2004

Why We're Not Taken Seriously

As we watch the climax of the presidential race with awe and terror, we shouldn't forget the other races being decided. Louisiana's long-time Senator John Breaux is retiring, and the three leading candidates to replace him are David Vitter, Republican, and Chris John and John Kennedy, both Democrats. Under the Louisiana system, if any candidate polls over 50% at the election, he wins outright. If not, a runoff is held between him and the next highest vote getter. Vitter is the only one with a chance of making 50%, and Kennedy and John are neck and neck well below him, so each of them is fighting madly to both keep Vitter below 50% and knock the other Dem down so he himself will be the guy in the runoff against Vitter.

In a state with "Sportsman's Paradise" as its motto, it's not surprising that the Times-Picayune reports that Chris John is playing up his rural good ole' boy roots, talking about growing up in Crowley fishing and hunting ducks. He even challenged the other two to go fishing and hunting with him, to see who'd do better. (Vitter, a dedicated indoorsman, smiled and declined.)

Well, with Kerry out there shooting geese to show what a he-man he is, none of this is really surprising. Then you get to this, which is surprising.

It's unclear how much John's appeal to hunters and fishers will pay off at the polls next month. But a coalition of animal rights activists is trying to make him pay for being what it calls "the go-to guy in Congress for the cockfighting industry."

HumaneUSA's political action committee launched a TV ad campaign in the state's major media markets this week and will send out three rounds of direct mail highlighting John's support for the bloody sport. The group said the direct-mail campaign will target 300,000 independent and Democratic women.

...John defended it as an economic boost to his rural, southwestern Louisiana House district and a local cultural phenomenon akin to NASCAR racing...
I beg your pardon??? Cockfighting? The one where they strap razor-sharp steel tusks to the roosters' claws, just to make it even more gory? Makes one wonder if John's checked the century lately. Maybe he doesn't realize he's running for U.S. Senator, not Sheriff of Nottingham. I read a defender of this activity (I won't call it a sport) saying that fighting is natural to gamecocks, and that keeping them from fighting would be the real cruelty. I'm sorry, no. In the wild, gamecocks, like many animals, fight to establish superiority, social standing, and (sorry, but I have to) the pecking order. The loser of the contest either signals submission or just runs away. The birds are not trapped in a pit with no way out except by a bloody battle that will leave one bird dead, maybe both.

This is what I was talking about in this post's title. All across the country people roll their eyes at the phrase "Louisiana politics," and things like this are the reason why. Chris John aspires to the Senate, and may even get there, despite championing one of the most cruel and barbaric blood sports that are still permitted to exist in America, if just barely. Why wouldn't the rest of the country think we're raving loons?

Consider one final point. If you consider the historic list of major presidential candidates, both winners and losers, you find that an awful lot of them were previously state governors. Look at recent presidents: Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush II, ex-governors all. The only exception is Bush I, and since he came in on Reagan's coattails, his case is ambiguous.

Since Huey Long considered challenging FDR in the 1930s, before he got assassinated, to my knowledge not one single Louisiana governor has even thought about running for president. If you mention the idea to a savvy Louisianan they just laugh in your face. It's because we all know that in Louisiana what is permitted of major politicians, hell, even expected of them, would be the kiss of death anywhere else in the country. In the New Hampshire primary and the Iowa caucuses, a Louisiana governor wouldn't poll 2%.

Why is it like this? I'm sure there are many historical answers for that. I'm sure it's also in part because the politicians know what their constituents want, and give it to them: the best damn political theater in the whole country.


Crank said...

Pardon me, but - not that I would defend cockfighting, but why on earth is it any concern of Congress in the first place, that it should need a "champion" there?

Steve T. said...

Chris John has said that this is a state matter, and Congress should butt out. He may even be right in principle, but that has never prevented Congress from butting into state-level affairs before. Let me quote from further down in that T-P article:

"Louisiana and New Mexico are the only two states where it is legal to have fighting roosters square off against one another with razors and knives strapped to their legs. As Congress has moved to marginalize cockfighting, John has emerged as its leading defender.

'Chris John has gone further than anyone else in Congress in defending this barbaric activity,' said Michael Markarian, a spokesman for the group [HumaneUSA]. 'We don't want a cockfighting advocate in the U.S. Senate.'"

Don said...

As long as there is a Louisiana, I have hope for the cultural life of my country.

Anonymous said...

I say the hell with all the people who dont like our sport