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/