I am Deplorable, But Let Me Explain This

I am not the kind of guy who likes to say “I told you so”, but this morning I just have to say I told you so to a very large group of people. But first, I would like to recap an election that shocked the powers that be and gave hope to America.

A fringe candidate that nobody really gave a chance, and a lot of people considered a joke, announced that he was running for President of the United States. Not many people, especially the elite in his own party, thought he had much of a chance. As the campaign got going, people talked, oh did they talk, about all the things that were “wrong” with this guy and why it was “impossible” for him to be elected President. He was a joke, he had no national government experience, no foreign policy experience and did have “the right stuff” to serve as the chief executive. He had a reputation as a womanizer. He was divorced and remarried. He had children by more than one woman. In fact, it was pretty widely known that he had divorced his previous wife so he could marry his current wife. His claim to fame was he used to be big in the entertainment industry. He was dangerous and had strange ideas. He was divisive. He was going to drag us into war. He was a loose cannon who could not be trusted with the nuclear codes. He appealed to the far right wing nut jobs types. He was anti-gay and anti-woman. And he was not a “true believer” because he used to be a Democrat.

But as the campaign unfolded, they were stunned. For some reason, he appealed to voters in middle America, who felt ignored and disenfranchised. He spoke from the heart and said what he believed, even though that was not what they thought was the safe political position. And voters responded. Voters in the ‘fly over states’, voters in rural America. He connected with voters. Voters who were tired of the failed policies and actions of the current administration, led by the opposite party. Voters who had had enough. Voters who were tired of a government who thought people were made to serve the government, not government to serve the people. Voters who actually believed that America’s best days were not behind them. And on election night, the political movers and shakers, the media and the political pundits were shocked that this guy was actually elected President of the United States.

In case you are wondering, that guy was not Donald Trump in 2016. That guy was Ronald Reagan and the year was 1980. Kinda funny isn’t. Okay, I am not necessarily comparing Trump to Reagan, but there is a reason. But more on that in a minute.

Since the day that Donald Trump announced that he was running for President almost 2 years ago, the political powers that be and the political apparatus that has been insulated in the Beltway and thought they run this country, thought he was a joke. And that does not just include the Democrats, by the way. It also included the top ranks of the Republican Party and the Republican elite, who saw themselves as head and shoulders above The Donald. He was dangerous. He was unelectable. For God’s sake he used to be on television! They could not imagine an America where voters would be willing to vote for Trump. And then something strange happened. The more Trump talked, the more people responded. They did not understand it, and they asked “why”?

For one thing, when Trump spoke, he said what he thought. If you liked what he had to say, fine. If you don’t, feel free to vote for the other guy, but this is what I think. That was a big breath of fresh air to Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, who were being strangled by the evil devil that we call “political correctness”. Like him or not, Trump was a straight shooter and people responded to that. He did not care about political correctness. And, he was the one person that could not be bullied, vilified or intimidated into falling in line with the PC party line. And people responded to that. He was willing to talk about issues, like illegal immigration, that both parties treated either as a non-issue or the deadly third rail of American politics. And people responded to that. They might not agree with all of his ideas about what to do about, but the majority of Americans were smart enough to know that you can’t deal with the elephant in the room if you are not even willing to talk about it. They were also smart enough not trust the others, who were essentially telling them “nothing to see here people. Just move along, everything is fine.”

As the primaries played out, he won state after state after state. Voters responded to his message of “we can make America great again”, and soundly rejected the message of his opponents that “things are just fine. Vote for me.” Interestingly enough, at the first GOP debate, the question was asked of all the candidates if any of them would rule out a third party run if they did not get the nomination. In other words, which of you is not willing to do the Republican thing and support the ultimate nominee. Only Trump raised his hand and the rest of the Republican went apoplectic. How dare he say that! How dare he not agree to toe the party line and try to get those damned Democrats out of the White House? Shame! Interestingly enough, when it came down to it, almost all of those other Republicans on that stage reneged on the promise. They either openly opposed Trump, like Jeb Bush did, or they stood silent, like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasik. I, for one, will make sure people don’t forget about that if any of these guys try to run again.

Even after Trump clinched the nomination, the GOP machine and its long time heavy players made noises about replacing Trump as the party’s nominee. They would rather abandon the wishes of the majority of their own party members, than risk running someone they saw as an ‘outsider’. Shame!

And I don’t have to tell you what happened in the general election. Mayhem may not be a strong enough word. Everybody that was somebody lined up against Trump. Democrats, disgruntled GOP candidates, former Republican presidents, political analysts and pundits and the mainstream media. Even poor little old me was not safe from the venom spit out at people who even considered voting for Trump. I was accused of selling out. I was called a “deplorable”, a misogynist, a bigot and an uneducated redneck and someone who blindly clings to my guns and my religion because I don’t know any better. I was accused of being part of a “vast right wing conspiracy” and a supporter of the dangerous right wing anti-government hate groups, because I believe in the Constitution and that the Second Amendment means what it says. I was cast as a racist, simply because I believe in the radical idea that we must enforce our existing immigration laws and secure the border before we can address the illegal immigration issue. But enough about all that.

For what it is worth, I voted for Donald Trump, but I don’t particularly like him. Personally, he is not the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with and have a beer. And, quite frankly, if he said about one of my sisters or one of my nieces what he has said about some other women, I would have immediately slapped the hell out of him and invited him outside to finish the discussion. But I also don’t think it is the end of the world as we know it to elect a guy who offers some fresh ideas and strikes a cord with the majority of the American people about some issues that are particularly important to me. And, I would not have voted for Hillary Clinton, no matter who was running against her, so there is that. Which, brings me to my main point.

So, it seems that the people that I have been referring to so far as “they”, which includes Hillary, Obama, the Democratic Party machine, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John McCain, the Republican party elite, Mitch McConnell and the rest of the beltway crowd, I’d say this. You are waking up this morning shaking your head and wondering ‘what the hell happened’. You can’t process that the majority of Americans voted for The Donald. But here is what happened, and I know you probably won’t understand this, but please try. The reason Trump resonated with people across America, a majority of those willing to show up and vote is simply this. They perceive him as not being one of YOU! The professional political crowd, who believes you can not only tell us what you think, but can tell us what we should think. They voted for Trump because not necessarily because he is one of us, but because the believe he is not one of “them”.

Which brings us back to my Reagan analogy. Do I equate the Trump Train as being on the same level as the Reagan Revolution. No, at least not yet. We will have to wait and see what happens. But I think the same thing is at play here as it was 36 years ago. The American people are willing to embrace someone, warts and all, who believes in America and speaks to us from the heart and who tells us what they believe, not what they think we want to hear. They are tired of two major parties who are more interested in getting re-elected and staying in power than they are about actually doing things to help the majority of hard working Americans. To the Democrats, as well as the Republican elite, the message is clear. Just like Peter Finch’s character Howard Bealle in the movie “Network”, the majority of Americans just opened the window and screamed as loud as the could “ “I’m as mad as HELL and I’m not going to take this anymore!” And, to those Republicans that saw themselves and too good or above supporting The Donald, the message is also what my grandfather used to say, “That little white part on the top of chicken****, is still just chicken****.”

How to Vote on Those &%#$ Amendments?

Once again, the November 4 elections will ask Louisiana voters to vote on the approval of 14 proposed Amendment to the Louisiana Constitution of 1974. It seems that every other year, in even numbered years when the Legislature holds a general session, there is another pile of constitutional amendments for us to say “yea’ or ‘nay’ to. The amendments come so regularly and are so technical, even informed voters seem to scratch their heads over what to do. I am regularly asked my opinion on how to vote on “those doggone amendments”. So, since I am now somebody, with my own blog, I an going to give my humble opinion about the 14 amendments on the November 4 ballot.

But, before I do, a little background and history. As a rule, a constitution is different from a regular statute. First, a constitution is generally recognized as a ‘blueprint’ for government in general. Its purpose is to set forth the structure of government, identify the various departments, define the role and limits of each, protect basic rights of citizens and protect certain ideals and principles, such as Civil Service, that are important enough to warrant, well, constitutional protection. Unlike an ordinary statute, a constitution cannot be changed by a simple majority vote of the legislature. For instance, the Louisiana Constitution requires that a proposed amendment be approved by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate AND a majority of voters statewide.

Historically, one of the reasons we now have the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 is the absolute mess that had become the Louisiana Constitution of 1921. The 1921 version was wordy to start with and over the years, as legislators, and the string pullers they worked for, began adding amendment after amendment, it constituted over a quarter million words and had been amended over 1,000 times. It had become so burdensome, archaic and unworkable that Edwin Edwards, in his 1971 campaing for Governor, made calling a convention for the establishment of a new constitution a central theme of his campaign. Shortly after taking office, Edwards was successful in doing so, which was the Constitutional Convention of 1973, which lead to the Louisiana Constitution of 1974. The 1974 Constitution was a good one. It was well written, to the point, streamlined the State government and, everyone agreed, was a nice piece of work.

Unfortunately, in the next 40 years, it seems we have fallen into the same trap be had before. Voters are asked again and again to approve amendments, many of which are “pet projects” of one group or another. We are continually adding amendment after amendment, most of which Louisiana voters don’t really understand or know why we need.

So, I said all that to say this. As you read my take on these things, remember that my philosophy on amendments is (1) many things may be a good idea, but that doesn’t mean they need to be in the Constitution: (2) some things may be a good idea but STILL don’t belong in the Constitution; (3) if I am not really convinced that an amendment is necessary, I am going to vote “NO”; and (4) if I do not know or understand what an amendment is supposed to do or what problem is it supposed to solve, my default position is to vote “NO” .

So, with all that in mind, here is my take:

Amendments 1 and 2: NO. No. 1 would establish a Trust Fund for the payment of Medicaid reimbursement. No. 2 would establish the Hospital Stabilization Fund. Both amendments would constitutionally dedicate funds the state is already collecting to a single purpose. While such a thing sounds good, the same thing could be accomplished by the Legislature having the intestinal fortitude not to raid these funds, which are already being assessed, to pay other bills. When you and I do this, it is called “theft” or “embezzlement”. More importantly, we already have way too many constitutionally dedicated funds in the state budget as it is. The result is that, for years, when things run short, the only thing that can legally be cut is health care and higher education. If these amendment pass, higer ed will be the Lone Ranger when it comes to budget cuts.

Amendment 3: NO. Amendment 3 would allow the sheriff or other tax collectors to employ private debt collectors to “assist” in collecting delinquent tax debts. First, if the sheriff can’t collect a debt, what makes anyone think that a private collector could do more? Of course the only reason to think so is to believe that the ‘collector’ can take actions the sheriff is legally prohibited from taking, or won’t take for other reasons. Which is exactly what makes this amendment a bad idea.

Amendment 4: NO. Amendment 4 is a perfect example of what is wrong with this whole process. It would allow the state to invest public money in something called the Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Bank. You have likely never heard of the Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Bank, because it does not exist. The enabling legislation, which would have set up the Louisiana Transportation Infrastructure Bank failed to pass. However, the constitutional amendment to make the enabling legislation legal did, so the amendment is on the ballot, although the legislation it was supposed to bless is dead. For God’s sake, please vote NO!

Amendment No. 5: YES This amendment would remove the 70 year old mandatory retirement age for judges. For some inexplicable reason, Judges are the only elected officials in the State who have such a mandatory retirement. I can think of no office where experience and tenure are more important than the judiciary. I personally know many competent, experienced and capable judges who have been forced to retire when they could still have done a good job.

Amendment 6: NO . This is a special bill that applies only to Orleans Parish. For the life of me, I cannot understand why they can’t play by the same rules as the rest of us.

Amendment 7: YES. This amendment would raise the Homestead Exemption for ad valorem taxes for veterans with a 100% service related disability rating, and their surviving spouses, to $150,000.

Amendment 8: NO . This amendment would give constitutional protection for monies already being collected by the state in connection with establishment of artificial reefs from old offshore oil platforms. First, this would be another dedicated fund. See my argument for Amendments 1 and 2 above. Second, I am all about coastal restoration, environmental clean up and all that. I am even in favor of fishing. But frankly, this Artificial Reef Development Fund will actually only create good fishing spots for a very small handful of offshore fishermen and charter operators.

Amendment No. 9: YES. Louisiana voters have already approved special assessment levels for property owners who are permanently and totally disabled. This amendment would merely remove the requirement that they have to submit income information annually to keep the special assessment.

Amendment No. 10: NO. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a strong proponent of private property rights. I believe we should make it more difficult the government to deprive owners of their property rather than easier, which this amendment would do. It would shorten the redemption period for tax sales from 3 years to 18 months for property which is blighted or abandoned. While it sounds like a long time, 18 months is too short. And, who decides whose property is “blighted” or “abandoned”?

Amendment No 11: NO. One of the reasons we got a new constitution in 1974 was to streamline and consolidate state government. One of the ways this was done was to limit the number of state departments to 20. This amendment would increase that to 21, to create the Office of Elderly Affairs. First, this department would handle services which are currently being performed by other departments. Second, the legislature, in its wisdom, has not allocated funds to expand services to the elderly.

Amendment No. 12: NO. I could do a lot of explaining, but this one would change the membership of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and won’t make a rat’s *ss bit of difference to anyone who lives south of Bunkie.

Amendment 13: NO. This amendment would allow the City of New Orleans to sell government owned property (i.e., property seized for non-payment of taxes) in the Lower Ninth Ward for a nominal fee to certain buyers. If you have lived in Louisiana longer than 6 months, you would be very uncomfortable about the ‘nominal fee’ and who are the ‘certain buyers’. And, this is a proposed amendment to the State constitution that only affects one ward in one parish. Really?? And, once again, I am not sure why Orleans Parish can’t play by the same rules everybody else does.

Amendment No . 14: YES. This amendment would close a loophole that the Legislature loves to jump through. Under the current Constitution, revenue measures may not be introduced in even numbered years, which are supposed to be general sessions. “Fiscal” sessions are supposed to be in odd numbered years. However, some legislators love to give away tax rebates, incentives and abatement all the time. The amendment would confirm that these things are fiscal matters which may only be considered in odd numbered years.

Okay, I know that was long, but it is what it is. In closing let me say this:

Laissez le bon ton roullier! It’s election time y’all!