Commentary

In Louisiana’s ‘Animal House,’ Ivey says what needed to be said

February 18, 2022 6:00 am
State Representative Barry Ivey

Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, presents his bill to add a minority district to the Louisiana Supreme Court to the House and Government Affairs Committee on Feb. 14, 2022. (LSU Manship School News Service photo)

In his eight-minute speech Wednesday to fellow members of the Louisiana House, Rep. Barry Ivey appeared to channel Dean Vernon Wormer of “Animal House” fame. In summary, Ivey’s message to lawmakers who had just tabled his attempt to add a minority district to the Louisiana Supreme Court was that “lazy” and “stupid” is no way for the Legislature to go through life.

Lawmakers have “extinguished the hope” of the state’s children for a century, said Ivey, who has served in the House since 2013. He referenced the students who pleaded with legislators in committee hearings this month to draw new political maps that acknowledge one-third of Louisiana residents are Black and 40% who identify as a minority.  

“We all say, ‘It’s not about race. We’ve grown. We’ve matured, We’ve evolved, right? We’re enlightened,’” Ivey said. “But what do we do? We repeat ourselves because we don’t learn from history.”

Big business, rather than the best interests of citizens, has been the driving force behind successful legislation, according to Ivey, who said he would not author another bill in this year’s regular session — and perhaps next year’s as well.

“Last year, what you’ll find is if (a bill) wasn’t backed by the pockets of corporate special interests, it didn’t have much of a shot,” Ivey said.

It would be preferable if Ivey reconsidered his stance on sponsoring bills, with the aim of pushing for more accountability in the Legislature and throughout state government. While his remarks resonated well outside the Capitol, words carry weight only when they’re followed by action.   

Even if he doesn’t put his name on legislation, it’s unlikely we’ve heard the last from Ivey. His impassioned speech — it’s wrong to call it a rant or tirade — spans past redistricting. It was a broader indictment of the way the Legislature conducts business.

“Sometimes, we choose easy instead of right,” he said in an interview with the Illuminator.

That such a dressing down came from Ivey, a Republican who’s gone unopposed twice in his Baton Rouge-area House district, is not entirely a surprise. He has been known to occasionally divert from being a reliable, lockstep vote for GOP causes, and he isn’t hesitant to explain publicly when he has differences with fellow party members and their leadership. But remember this is also the same Ivey who has been a consistent 2nd Amendment advocate, lest anyone think he’s turned a paler shade of red.

The Legislature would do well to have more free-thinkers and people on both sides of the aisle willing to speak from a place of personal conviction rather than adherents to partisan doctrine. But few are willing to take that political risk.

Time will tell if the Legislature’s “Flounder” faction takes Dean, er, Rep. Ivey’s words to heart. There are only hours left in the special redistricting session, and the only maps to clear both chambers are Republican versions that keep the racial status quo.

To borrow again from “Animal House,” Ivey’s philippic will not have been a futile and stupid gesture if he and other lawmakers can commit to bucking the status quo. 

Greg LaRose is editor of the Louisiana Illuminator. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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