Friday, May 19, 2006

The Populist or Political Savvy

That’s how the NY Times presents the choice New Orleanians have this Saturday. Adam Nossiter profiled both candidates.

Nagin: After the Storm Comes a Populist Chord

Landrieu: New Orleans Mayor's Rival Stresses His Political Savvy
How does this help New Orleans voters? It doesn’t. But it does frame the way the rest of the country views this election.

Many of us here worry about “the message” that this election will send to the rest of the country. Interpretation of “the message” relies completely on how the country views Nagin because, besides knowing Landrieu is white, I don’t think the rest of the country has formed an opinion on Landrieu. If the country sees Nagin as a joke, then they will ridicule New Orleans for reelecting a joke.

However, if we reelect a “populist” in the country’s eye, New Orleans’ image might not dip so far into the mud. In fact, if the country sees a once majority African-American city elect a white, affluent, politically connected candidate over a “populist” black candidate who gains his populist title because he is overwhelmingly more popular among black voters who have been overwhelmingly more effected by the flooding, then New Orleans’ image might actually take a hit. For years to come, minority leaders will say, “You saw what happened in New Orleans” as an example of an opportunistic power grab by wealthy whites. First, black faces were bused out of the city after the storm. Then black faces were kicked out of City Hall.

I am not saying that’s the way it is. I’m saying that’s the way it could be perceived, especially if the national media picks up on that theme.

I am also not saying that Nagin should win. Given what happened after the storm, I don’t see how any incumbent can be reelected.

Landrieu has claimed he is the better choice to send the right message to the rest of the country. I am just pointing out that he is not necessarily in control of what message is sent.

Who cares what anybody else thinks anyway?

6 comments:

oyster said...

Don't worry about an article describing Nagin as a "populist". Almost nothing could change people's perceptions of Nagin, because they were formed during the highly memorable Katrina aftermath, and then when he made idiotic chocolate city remarks on MLK day. Those are burned into people's consciousness so far, I don't know what it would take for their perceptions to change.

And that's the problem. Ray has way too much baggage.

Patrick Armstrong said...

The national media has already picked its theme about New Orleans & the Mayor's race et al: "New Orleans cannot be saved."

You could see it the other night in the nationally televised debate. There's Chris Matthews asking "is it morally responsible to encourage people to rebuild?" Then: "can New Orleans be rebuilt without illegal labor?" Then: "why should Karl Rove and this Administration save New Orleans?"

The national media has been warming up the funeral dirge for New Orleans since Katrina was turning north in the Gulf.

Whoever y'all do elect as Mayor, populist or politician, he's going to need to be ready to take this fight right back at the national media and remind them that, as Americans, we don't just give up on our people or our cities.

slate said...

I agree with your take on this. I've been talking about perception for a long time now, but your take is a little different and fresh for sure.

I also have to agree, unfortunately, with both comments above.

I got an email from our fellow blogger, Mark, over at WetBank Guide about a month ago. I hope he won't mind me paraphrasing something he said in it that stuck with me, it really struck a chord. I had said that Nagin had burned too many bridges, and Landrieu had the connections that might possibly make it easier to make more headway on the federal and state levels. Mark's reply was that yes indeed Landrieu was part of a Louisiana political family, but that maybe that wasn't so bad as he "wouldn't want a root canal from someone who wasn't a dentist." A good point. Perhaps what we need right now IS a "politician."

I do hope that the racial divide issues can be avoided though. But your statement of their possibility is something we should be prepared for.

Schroeder said...

Wow! A lot to think about po'boy.

Patrick -- I completely agree. It's not enough to go through the motions. We have to sell the idea and value of New Orleans to the rest of the country. Nagin lacks the vision and the eloquence.

Anonymous said...

An incompetent racist won the election for mayor of New Orleans. Like so many issues that confront the Black community they choose to (based on race alone) stick with a loser who during Katrina showed how really incompetent and corrupt he is. That says a lot about Nagin, and more importantly about the majority Black population of the city. It's little wonder that Louisana in general and New Orleans in particular are the most corrupt state and city in the U.S. With people like Nagin running things how could it be any different?

da po' boy said...

Anonymous-

I believe that if you check out the links under the "citizen" and "comrades" sections of the side bar, you will find ample evidence that no more corruption happens in Louisiana or New Orleans than in any other state or city in the country.

I would also like to point out that it wasn't the black community that chose to "stick with" Nagin as mayor, but the city of New Orleans.

Thank you for your comments.