By Robert Mann
What a year in politics. Louisiana couldn’t match the national drama, but the state Capitol and beyond served up some fascinating drama. Here are my 2016 “winners” in 10 categories of infamy and esteem.
Most Courage: Baton Rouge protesters and fallen police officers. After the June shooting of Alton Sterling by a Baton Rouge police officer, protesters flooded the streets. Those arrested on flimsy charges modeled a bedrock quality of American democracy: nonviolent protest. The resulting turmoil outraged some citizens. To be sure, those who committed violent acts should be condemned and prosecuted. Peaceful protest on behalf of racial justice has never been universally popular. It is, however, proper and, most certainly, courageous.
Let us also honor the three heroic East Baton Rouge Parish law enforcement officers who were murdered — Deputy Brad Garafola, Officer Matthew Gerald and Corporal Montrell Jackson — and the three other officers wounded in July. These courageous and faithful public servants have earned our everlasting respect.
Most Cowardice: Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden. The Sterling shooting offered East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden a chance to exercise resolute, calm leadership to help heal a shattered community. After almost 12 years in office, however, Holden seemed spent. He showed little desire to lead his community. In the weeks after the shooting, when Baton Rouge needed his leadership, Holden was usually nowhere to be found.
Shameless Ambition: Attorney General Jeff Landry. From the day Landry became attorney general, he has misused his office to challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards’ authority as governor. Landry is running a governor’s campaign disguised as an official state office. That he is doing so by attacking transgender rights makes him not just shamelessly ambitious but also a disgraceful trafficker of bigotry.
Most Embarrassing Statement: U.S. Sen.-elect John Kennedy. Thank God we must no longer suffer Kennedy’s absurd TV spots. One benefit of his watch-me-imitate-Forrest-Gump campaign was a renewed acquaintance with my TV remote’s mute button. Before I found that button, however, I endured this embarrassing statement: “I believe that love is the answer, but you ought to own a handgun.”
Villain of the Year: David Duke. Has Louisiana politics ever experienced a more reprehensible cretin than the neo-Nazi, ex-KKK leader and former Republican state representative? He crawled out of his hole this year, reminding us what is so odious about racism and antisemitism. I’m grateful Duke earned only 3 percent in the U.S. Senate race. Let’s hope he slinks away into perpetual oblivion.
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