It’s evident that Sen. David Vitter believes he can survive the governor’s race without offering substantive answers about his alleged association with prostitutes in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. Eventually he’ll be forced to give us more than his usual petulance and indignation when he’s asked about his 2007 sex scandal. Vitter is wrong to suggest, as he did the other day, that such questions are of the “gotcha” variety.
Nonetheless, I believe Vitter when he says he’s dealt with his “serious sin.” He needed forgiveness from his wife, not me – and he seems to have received it. Still, those who insist the real issue is not about Vitter’s sex life but about his shameless hypocrisy have a point. He did, after all, sanctimoniously suggest that President Bill Clinton should resign in 1998 and supported his impeachment. Vitter’s sex life aside, his questionable character and temperament are legitimate issues that voters should consider.
All that said, if the current governor’s race turns largely on Louisiana’s tolerance for a candidate who frequented prostitutes, that will be time and energy tragically wasted on the wrong issue. We will have squandered the chance to have a mature discussion about the real, scandalous iniquity confronting our state.
I’m talking about the immorality of our blithe acceptance of Louisiana’s deep and chronic poverty. Our endemic poverty is more appalling and harmful to Louisiana than anything Vitter ever did with a prostitute – and it ought to shame the candidates, the news media and the voters if we let another governor’s race expire without addressing the state’s most serious problem.
We ignore poverty’s role in our children’s inability to learn. We blame teachers and schools, when the true failure is societal. We refuse to see that poor children, even those in wonderful schools, do not perform (on average) as well as kids from more affluent families.
We abide a caste system that provides health insurance for the poorest and wealthiest among us – but sinfully abandons the working poor and punishes them for their labor. We are content with a regressive tax code that penalizes the poor and rewards the rich. We’re content with a minimum wage that is a poverty wage.
Deep budget cuts force universities to raise tuition and fees, making it too expensive for thousands of young people to pursue a college degree. We ignore how poverty punishes our youth and consigns them to lives of deprivation.
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