Commentary

Louisiana’s Republican officials continue seeking praise from one-term, lame-duck president

December 18, 2020 8:12 am

President Donald Trump introduces U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) during a rally at CenturyLink Center on November 14, 2019 in Bossier City, Louisiana. President Trump headlined the rally to support Louisiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, who was looking to unseat Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

In the run up to this year’s presidential election, instead of revealing a platform explaining what Republicans stand for, the Republican National Committee stated its support for Donald Trump. That decision confirmed what was already apparent: Trump does not belong to the Republican Party. The Republican Party belongs to Trump.

It’s no surprise, then, that when forced to pick between principles and the president, Louisiana’s leading Republicans picked Trump. Picking Trump means pretending that a president with Gallup’s all-time lowest average approval rating couldn’t lose a fair election. For attorneys, picking Trump means pretending that disillusionment at Democrat Joe Biden’s victory is a sufficient replacement for evidence. For the well educated, picking Trump means pretending that any one of Trump’s election fraud theories makes sense.

“If you ask me, it seems like there’s been a lot of tomfoolery and a few too many shenanigans with this last election,” Sen. John Kennedy wrote in an email blast Dec. 6.  “I’m not saying that something DID happen, but I’m not so sure something DIDN’T HAPPEN,” Kennedy continued. “I’m thinking that we may need to take a second look at those ballots and the legitimacy of this election.”  

Two days before Kennedy’s email was sent, enough states had certified their elections to ensure Biden would get 270 electoral votes. That means questionable ballots had gotten a second look and that tallies had been checked for accuracy. But the bigger issue is that Kennedy’s statement  — “I’m not so sure something didn’t happen” — is unbecoming for an attorney of his intellect and training. It seems he cares too much about the truth to repeat the lie that Trump was cheated but too not enough to tell Trump’s die-hards that their candidate lost.

Kennedy’s email was embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as Louisiana’s attorney general and four of its five Republican congressmen joining a legal effort to invalidate roughly 20 million American ballots and award the presidency to the candidate with 7 million fewer votes.

Attorney General Jeff Landry, Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Clay Higgins, Rep. Mike Johnson and Rep. Ralph Abraham affixed their John Hancocks (or is it their Benedict Arnolds?) to a lawsuit from Texas’s attorney general accusing four other states of incorrectly managing their own elections. They say everything’s bigger in Texas. Apparently, the audacity is, too.

Across the country, 17 Republican attorneys general and 126 House Republicans — led by Johnson — joined Texas’s suit only to watch the U.S. Supreme Court give it the back of its hand.

But Johnson won his prize days before the Supreme Court refused to hear the suit. “President Trump called me this morning to let me know how much he appreciates the amicus brief we are filing on behalf of Members of Congress,” he tweeted.

Johnson’s voters will be more impressed that Trump approves of him than they could ever be upset that Johnson lost at the Supreme Court.

He still shouldn’t have joined the suit. There ought to come a time when Republicans officials say to Trump, “I’m not going there with you.”

It should be noted that Rep. Garrett Graves chose not to set his reputation on fire to win Trump’s praise. He did not sign onto the Texas suit. Also, on Nov. 23, Sen. Bill Casssidy tweeted, “President Trump’s legal team has not presented evidence of the massive fraud which would have had to be present to overturn the election. I voted for President Trump but Joe Biden won.”

As the race was called for Biden Nov. 7, Cassidy’s statement of the obvious was 16 days overdue, but that’s what’s passing for political boldness and independence among Republicans:  belatedly acknowledging something Trump denies.

Even though Trump’s Gallup approval rating never cracked the 50 percent mark and Biden beat him by a wide margin, 89 percent of Republicans across the country had a favorable view of Trump in the weeks after the election, and that percentage is likely higher in Louisiana

Because the party is no longer about issues, all most Republican voters have to go by is what candidates say about Trump and what Trump says about candidates. Denying the obvious, parroting Trump’s lies, destroying one’s professional reputation by endorsing absurd lawsuits seeking outrageous remedies. These are high prices to pay for the approval of a one-term, lame-duck president.

Elected officials who value their integrity more than votes wouldn’t pay it.

But Kennedy wouldn’t acknowledge Biden’s victory even after Monday’s Electoral College vote. “I don’t have anything for you on that,” he told CNN. 

That’s shameful. 

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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later NOLA.com) as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.

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