Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Royal We — Or, Why We Haven't Reformed Yet

Posted By on Thu, Dec 27, 2007 at 6:58 AM

To My Readers:

First, I have to apologize for being “one poor correspondent” when it comes to blogging. I’m 53 years old, so my late entry into the Blogosphere can easily be chalked up to not getting it. Having said that, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to blog regularly in this space — and I welcome your questions, comments, criticisms, etc. It’s all about the Marketplace of Ideas.

Recent issues of Gambit Weekly have advertised an “Ask Clancy” forum. That ad is intended to prime the pump, and I promise I will try to answer all serious inquiries. But I won’t put all the burden on you; I plan to post often on topics that I come up with on my own. I do love answering questions, though, because they give me a sense of what people are talking about in terms of issues, much like talk radio.

Another thing I plan to include in this space is a link to my old and dear friend C.B. Forgotston’s Web site — www.forgotston.com — where you can regularly read C.B.’s insightful rants. In my opinion, C.B. is the King (or is that Kingfish?) of Louisiana political bloggers. Unlike many bloggers, C.B. does his homework (almost always citing his sources, to his lawyerly credit) and he has the chops to say the things he says. Back in the 1970s, C.B. was a senior committee staffer in the Louisiana Legislature. After that he worked as a lobbyist for various business and reform causes. So, when he criticizes Leges for not acting in the public interest, he does so as one who has been in the belly of the beast. BTW, I am including C.B.’s posts and personal emails with his permission.

Over the years, C.B. and I have developed a great friendship and long email correspondence. We don’t always agree, although we often do. And, when we disagree, we do so respectfully — something you don't see very often in blogs.

Anyway, C.B. has agreed to let me post some of his emails to me, along with my replies, in the hopes that they will generate additional reader interest and comment on both our blogs. Below is the first of what I hope will be many such exchanges, along with those generated by your questions and my own rants.

From C.B.:

The Rules of the LA House provide for the election of the position of Speaker Pro Tem who presides in the absence of the Speaker of the House.

The pertinent part of House Rule 2.7 states:

The Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives shall be elected by the membership of the House from among the members thereof in the same manner as the Speaker. (emphasis mine)

In an article in today’s Baton Rouge paper is found the following comment:

[Rep. Jim] Tucker [R-Terrytown] said he’ll name committee chairs by Christmas as well as the speaker pro-tem. (emphasis mine)

Governor-Elect Bobby Jindal named Tucker to serve as Speaker of the House.

Lawmakers and lawbreakers

As with the case of the President Pro Tem of the Senate (See commentary of December 14), either the speaker made a mistake or accidentally revealed the truth. In either case, why have rules, if like our laws, they are not obeyed by those who make them.

Aristotle said “Good laws, if they are not obeyed, do not constitute good government.”

These (House and Senate) political deals are, but two examples of what the media dubs a “reform” administration not equating “good government.”

— C.B.

Clancy’s Comments:

C.B.,

Our Leges remain stuck in the “royal” paradigm of governance (trappings of power and office, pomp and circumstance, notions of entitlement, extreme deference and ass-kissing of elected officials, the “Royal We,” etc.) that, in my opinion, has been at the heart of all Louisiana political corruption since before the Civil War. Long before the mass media came into being, our politicians were treated like “celebrities” by the populace. If you treat someone like a celebrity — or a royal — they will very quickly come to expect such treatment all the time and eventually take a proprietary view of such “entitlements.” It’s human nature. Not human nature at its finest, but human nature nonetheless.

Many have suggested over the years — and I count myself as one of those who subscribe to this notion — that the real reason Louisiana has never “reformed” itself is because people in this state don’t really want reform. To paraphrase Earl Long, “One of these days Louisiana is going to get good government, and people aren’t going to like it one damn bit.”

In sum, we get exactly the kind of government we deserve, because we get exactly what we’re willing to put up with. If we demand better — and back up our demands with action during AND BETWEEN elections — you might be surprised at the level of “reform” that our lawmakers give us. But, as Earl Long warned, be careful what you ask for. Are we ready for real reform? If so, the incoming governor and Legislature offer a nearly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But, in the end, it’s really up to us.

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