Karen Carter in Louisiana run-off against Bill Jefferson

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There is one seat left to fill in the Congressional Black Caucus. Louisiana has yet to fill its seat in the New Orleans metro area most devastated by Hurricane Katrina.  The corrupt gumbo of Louisiana politics is tough to navigate but is fascinating as hell. 

I learned that when I attended Southern University in Baton Rouge 15 years ago.  White Supremacist David Duke was running for Governor against former Governor Edwin Edwards that year and the campaign was just heating up. Duke campaign signs dotted the rural areas like burning crosses and cast a pall on my mood as I drove through the state for the first time on my way to school.

Billie Holliday’s version of “Strange Fruit” would have been the perfect musical accompaniment to my trip. Her cracked wailing evokes something ethereal, dark, and sinister:

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
Blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
for the rain to gather
for the wind to suck
for the sun to rot
for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop”

The aftermath of Katrina created some jarring images I’m unable to shake. I can’t help but think about the old woman whose body was draped by a sheet as she sat rotting in her wheelchair in the open air.  There were many such people who may have survived the initial calamity only to be taken by the grim reaper because an incompetent government allowed them to succumb to heat exhaustion, lack of medication, or frail health.

They were lynched by indifference.  Their lives didn’t matter to the federal, state, or local governments they entrusted with their safety. Bill Jefferson and his allies were to busy with their side graft to care about disaster recovery and emergency management. It is time for someone new. 

The people of Metro New Orleans cannot afford to send to congress a representative embroiled in a bribery scandal.  It needs a champion.  It needs someone who can hit the ground running.  It needs someone on a first name basis with Louisiana movers and shakers. It needs someone who the beleaguered business community can trust. It needs Karen Carter.

The more I look into her backers, the more reservations I have about Karen.  I never liked former Senator John Breaux or former Congressman Chris John.  These two right of center white democrats always left me cold.  Their records in Congress left much to be desired.  But there is no alternative.  I could see that she had what it took to make it into the runoff.  The others, notably Sen. Sheppard and Troy Carter were serious candidates.  Looking into their records on a couple of issues as members of the Louisiana House of Representatives, I am satisfied that she is the most progressive.

Some of y’all have expressed misgivings that as a representative of utility companies and chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee, she has been a tool of those interests.  Point taken, but consider this: the insurance industry is regulated by a statewide elected Commissioner in Louisiana and nearly all of them in the past several years have been indicted and gone to prison.  Utilities in Louisiana are also regulated by an elected commission. The level of corruption is a whole lot bigger than Karen.  She does not have the power to fundamentally change the rules of the game.  The power she does have has been used wisely from what I can tell.

She has passed legislation requiring insurers to notify covered persons in writing of their intent to cancel their coverage.  She passed legislation mandating a grace period and a lapse notice before insurance coverage can be cancelled.  She authored legislation to mandate that insurance companies that write property policies in Louisiana offer coverage for levee breaches, the problem that caused the massive flooding after Katrina.  It didn’t pass the legislature.  This is part of what was on this sister’s plate this year while Bill Jefferson was having his offices and homes searched by the FBI.  She was on the job doing the people’s business. He was looking for a way to stay out of jail. 

The choice between the two is clear.

I understand the unwillingness of some to trust the white interests bankrolling her, however, this sister seems to be able to use her power in a way that benefits everybody.  Isn’t that what everybody wants and needs? She already has the endorsement of the new Speaker of the House and the Louisiana Democratic Party.

The reason she does is because Bill Jefferson threw his seat and the people he represents away for petty graft.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have given a small contribution to Karen and I intend to do a little somethin’ more.  If you feel as I do and wish to help a sister out, her website is: http://www.karencarterforcongress.com/

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George Allen’s defeat, a post-mortem

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Having come down from the elation of watching George Allen concede Virginia’s Senate race to Jim Webb, I am struck by the realization of how close the Commonwealth came to re-electing him and placing its imprimatur on an unapologetic racist and homophobe. The stark reality of Allen’s strong vote totals make Doug Wilder’s election as the first Black elected Governor seem like divine intervention.

Were the revelations surrounding his gratuitous use of racial slurs not clear for the 1.1 million people that voted for him?  I am trying to wrap my mind around the ideology that allows a person to vote for an unapologetic racist and homophobe in good conscience.  Do they feel protected in the anonymity of the voting booth in exercising their racial animus?  Do they give in to these urges to support racism on a regular, daily basis? 

Are they rationalizing these allegations away or do they just not care?  More disturbingly, are they comforted and confirmed in their own prejudice by voting for him? These nagging questions floating around my head have a way of sapping my strength and stealing the joy of his defeat away from me.

Given the questions swirling around in my spirit about him, I cannot fathom why any sentient, sane African American would endorse him for any reason and provide him political cover, especially after several white professionals and collegues came forward to confirm his prejudice by recounting his unchecked use of the most virulent, anti-black, racial epithet in the lexicon.

What kind of twilight zone are they living in.  It’s as if these Negroes have ignored the entire sorrid racial history of this nation and believe that it doesn’t matter.  It has always mattered and always will. It mattered to Michael Satcher and Ronald Bennett, two African American men George Allen allowed to be executed by the Commonwealth after exculpatory evidence of innocence was brought to his attention and ignored for reasons of political expediency and probable racial animus.

Finally, despite everything, how can anyone profess to like a racist? Chris Matthews said that crap today before Allen’s concession speecch.  Can somebody help me understand that?  Was this “like” a factor in people’s vote to support a racist? Do they think, “Yeah, I know he is a Klansman, but he is really personable, I think I’ll vote for him.”  Somebody please explain that thought process to me so I can sleep at night.