The Most Important Election Ever plays out on Saturday, and you know I just have to weigh in on it. Other New Orleans blogs try to avoid politics because they, quite sensibly, don't want to alienate people of certain political persuasions which could interfere with getting our fair city's post-apocalyptic story out. We here at Flood and Loathing, on the other hand, just can't seem to help ourselves.
But before trying to make a call on the Mayoral choice, let me first say that way back before candidates were even declaring themselves, I knew who I was voting for. See, I wanted the candidate who was going to be honest, the candidate who was going to call the tough choices we all know we still have to face. I wanted the one who was going to come out and tell us what parts of town were coming back and which weren't; I wanted the candidate who would articulate a vision of our city's future without pandering to everybody, without promising the impossible, without trying to convince us that New Orleans would be back just like it was before the flood. I believed that in the brutal Post-K reality we live in, at least one candidate would dispense with the bullshit and hit us with the truth straight, and the one who did that was my guy. Silly me. Of course nobody was going to do that - it would be political suicide. After months and months of this, now I think I'll just vote for the guy whose campaign staff gives me the fewest annoying phone calls.
Since my man Manny didn't make the run-off (though I'm proud my vote netted him triple digits), we have instead the contest of the follicly-challenged, the bald C. Ray Nagin and the not-quite-bald Mitch Landrieu. Not that's there's anything wrong with having less than a luxurious mane of head hair; at least, we here at Flood and Loathing hope not as we're not really ones to talk. In fact, three people so far have pointed out to your humble servant (that's me) that I bear a striking resemblance to potential-Mayor Mitch, no doubt because of our boyishly good looks and not our nearly-but-not-quite-nonexistent hair. I'm hoping to parlay this resemblance into getting accepted into the Landrieu family as a long-lost relative, or at least into a lucrative side career as a Mitch body-double (writing for F&L doesn't come with a real hefty salary). Perhaps - dare I dream? - even a "Dave"-like situation where I actually get to be Mayor someday.
Assuming I don't cast my vote on who I resemble more, I have to figure out other criteria on which to base my participation in the democratic process. Unfortunately, the difference between the candidates on the issues is pretty tiny. Both maintain all neighborhoods should be rebuilt though admit the city doesn't have the money to provide services - fire, police, etc. - to everywhere. Neither acknowledge that what gets rebuilt really isn't going to be up to the mayor. Both agree the city must aggressively pursue taking over houses the owners don't rebuild. Both agree the mayor should have more say and control over public schools.
In order to draw a difference between the two, Nagin is doing his best to portray Landrieu's political dynasty as a negative - the "politics of the past" - since Mitch's father Moon was mayor. Also, he's touting his experience as mayor and the fact that he's been building relationships with the feds and the POTUS.
In response, Landrieu points out how little progress said relationships have gotten us and how little help we've actually received from the POTUS. He's also playing up his ability to get things done, to work out agreements between people from different sides of the aisle. His support seems the most biracial, while Nagin's might be more bipartisan, probably because Nagin is a bit more conservative (though we're talking relative terms here) and he did switch from Republican to Democrat while the Landrieus are a Louisiana family of the old and very influential Democratic persuasion. That switch of Nagin's, though, does have a whiff of political expediency, since no Republican is going to get elected mayor in this town, no matter how many floods come through and how many residents are displaced.
And there is the basic gut reaction of "Nagin had his chance and blew it; let's get someone new." That's tempered a bit by my thinking that anyone would have been in over their head Post-K (a perhaps too-apt metaphor), but it's still there.
In the end, however, I think the really important quality in the city's next mayor is going to be his ability to squeeze money and services from the feds and the state. That, put bluntly, is what New Orleans needs more than anything these days. Given that Landrieu's sister is a Senator and he serves as Lieutenant Governor under Blanco (who isn't up for election until 2007), he has the advantage in that department. It's rather sad that the primary responsibility of our mayor is now begging for cash, but that's the reality. At least, for once, a candidate's ability to run a campaign actually equates to the job they're running for. So I guess we here at Flood and Loathing are throwing all of our considerable political might behind Mitch.
At least for the next four days until he actually gets elected and starts doing stuff that pisses me off.
The endorsements are more ubiquitous than nutria around here these days, though nobody wants to try and call the election yet; probably because all the usual indicators like polls and such are all wonked up what with everyone scattered hither and yon. About the only thing everybody will predict is that this one is going to be a nail-biter. More important than endorsing any particular candidate is encouraging the vote, so we here at Flood and Loathing urge every New Orleanian, whether returned home or not, to get out there, vote early, and vote often. Sure, democracy is a crappy form of government that doesn't actually work, but it's better than any other option.