Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission, because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host Lynda Woolard. On this episode, I speak with Robert Mann, professor at LSU, political historian, writer and former comms for iconic Louisiana politicians, Russell Long, John Breaux and Kathleen Blanco. Bob has also been a noted knowledgeable and vocal critic of both the current governor elect and Louisiana Democratic Party chair, join us for a lively conversation on the change needed at the state party and the concerns he has for Louisiana over the next few years. Robert Mann, thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty.
It's wonderful to be with you.
Well, I really appreciate your joining me. I've been trying to get you on ever since Election Day, the the runoff election. You're one of those people I know through Twitter, is that your recollection?
That's right. That's yeah, it's amazing the number of people you get to know so you feel like you know them so well and haven't met in real life. And then you meet them in real life. And it's a lot of fun. Yeah, right.
Well, tell me what your political origin story was. What made you interested in politics initially?
Well, I grew up in a in a pretty politically aware household, conservative Republican household in Beaumont, Texas.
Parents, both were big consumers of the news. And then we talked about politics a lot in the house, my grandfather was a close friend of our Congressman, Jack Brooks, and so my mother, who is not all that much of a fan of his politics was always writing him letters and complaining about this, and then the other. And he would write her back. And he was very patient and been respectful to her, but I'm not sure. He was always so kind to him. But it was always, you know, there was always politics being discussed in my, in the house and my parents, even though I think in some ways, they kind of distrusted the politicians, they didn't try to discourage my interests, which I really appreciate. Because they, they, they could have, I think, made me less interested or maybe maybe more cynical, but they didn't. And so I just became fascinated with politicians and was I was a reader very early on my parents owned a bookstore, when I was a kid, so I was always had a ready supply of books to read. And most of what I read was Paul and political biographies and histories and that kind of thing. And it just sort of blossomed into a career in journalism and studying journalism in college and then and then into covering politics as a journalist. And then and then that natural progression was working for members of Congress like Russell Long and John Breaux and Kathleen Blanco.
That's amazing. So you have done those amazing things. You're pretty well known in Louisiana politics, but tell me a little bit more about your mini bio of the things you've done here for folks who don't know.
Yeah, so I was, I was, I was covering politics in in Shreveport, as a political writer for The Shreveport journal and covered the governor's race between Edwin Edwards and Dave Treen. And after that race was over, I got to contact. I had gone to Washington to do some reporting on Edwin Edwards upcoming trial, or corruption, the one that he was acquitted on. And while I was up there, I went by Capitol Hill and saw some people and found out that Russell Long was looking for a press secretary from a friend of mine who worked for Bennett Johnston, and he asked me if I was interested in applying for the job, and it never occurred to me to do something like that. But since I was there, I said, yeah, we'll go by and and visit with them. And a couple of weeks later, Senator long, came to Shreveport and interviewed me for the job. And about a month later, I was in DC. And it was not a job that I had really thought about and I did and honestly I told Senator long later, you'd never you shouldn't get no business hiring me for that job. I don't know what I was doing. And luckily he luckily for me, at least in some ways, he decided to retire Not long after I went to work for him. So the idea was I was going to be in Washington for a couple of years and and go back and work on his campaign for re election. And when he decided to retire, I had two years of really low pressure work to learn the job learn my, you know, sort of learn the ropes of the Senate so that when John Breaux was elected to replace him, I finally figured out what I was doing and I applied for that job and got it and spent 17 years working for, for broses, press secretary and then state director and then finished out my time in politics working for Kathleen Blanco was her as your communications director.
I know you have also when I've talked to people, a lot of them have mentioned, you know, political advisor, I studied under Bob Mann at LSU. So you've also done work there.
Yeah. So I've been on the LSU faculty now for almost 18 years. I left blancos office in the spring of 2006, and joined the LSU faculty, and have been teaching here ever since.
Okay. Now, I asked you on specifically because you were so outspoken about the Democratic Party after these most recent elections. But you also made news by saying you were going to leave your job. Because Jeff Landry got elected to Governor, what's the story there?
Well, it was really about this time two years ago, when I was criticizing Landry for his anti his his vaccine COVID vaccine lies and misinformation disinformation. And he took offense to a tweet or a series of tweets about that and wrote in called President tait at LSU. And asked me to be punished, fired, whatever, I don't know what happened on the phone conversation that he had with him. But I, at that time, I, you know, I was already thinking that, I would probably not continue working beyond age 68, 69, maybe 70, would be the longest I'd want to continue teaching. But when. So my horizon for retirement was a little farther than that it became, but when when I realized that, this guy, if this guy becomes governor, he, he's going to come after Me, and a lot of people like me, and he'll probably do it not by trying to come at come at me directly, you know, by abolishing tenure or whatever that might take them a while to do that. Because it'd be hard to get rid of me because I do have tenure, but my school's budget doesn't have tenure. And a lot of the things I care about at LSU don't have tenure. And it just seemed like it was a good time to, to pull, push the eject button and get out of here before his desire to get me ended up having a lot of collateral damage and hurting a lot of people in programs at LSU that I care about. So I just very quickly the morning after he was elected, told my dean and then announced it publicly that I was leaving. And the hope was to take pressure off LSU and particularly my school the manship school, that hopefully he wouldn't target us for any kind of retribution because of me, like
the accusations you launched it and where the criticism you launched was pretty simple, pretty basic. And you that was your sole reason as you saw it from that he would still hold a grudge?
Well, I have, you know, I was I was here all through the Jindal administration, it was very critical of gentle I had a weekly column in the in the Times Picayune, and which I really peel the bark off their tree every week and went after him pretty hard. And to my knowledge, Bobby Jindal, or anyone around him never called the President University and tried to get me punished for that. And, you know, if the governor wants you gone, if the governor wants to hurt you, there's a lot of there's a lot of damage the governor can do. Even Even two people have tenure, there's a lot of damage the governor can do to any university or any really any state institution that he or she wants to go after. And you know, that the fact that he was willing to call the president of the university and asked me to be punished. I thought that was just a shocking, really appalling crossing of the Rubicon for somebody like that, who, when when tape spoke to him, he knew he was talking to a former to a potential future governor, the person who eventually will become governor. You know, you don't, you know, blow off the governor, the president of LSU. You don't blow off the governor. So when the governor asked you to do something, you do it and if it's the Attorney General, and you might, you might can tell them no, but you're not going to tell the governor No. So it just felt like to me that that I didn't want to put I don't I don't have a whole lot of respect or competence and Tait to withstand a governor. You know, he's not I don't think he's got a lot of backbone, and even a university president with a lot of backbone would have a hard time standing up to a governor. So it just felt like there that, you know, it takes, you know, if even if he wants to defend me his ability to do that is not all that great. So I just felt like it would be easier for everybody for me to get out. I'm not, like I said, I wasn't planning on working for another two or three years anyway. So. And also, I want to leave on my own terms of, you know, people, people have said, Why don't you stay in fight? And my response is, Well, why don't you stay in fight? Why don't you go hire an attorney? Why don't you go spend $100,000 to hire an employment attorney? And why don't you spend a lot of time in court giving depositions to save a job that you're really ready to believe in a couple of years anyway? Yeah, I just wanted to go out on my own terms,
that makes sense. That makes sense. And the thing about Landry, that we've talked about a bit on the podcast, and most recent episodes, is he was sort of allowed to skate as Attorney General Lee these last few years. Besides here, very minor criticism of him. There were not a lot of people really harping on him at all. And there were certainly a lot of things to criticize about what he's done as attorney general.
I think that I think the argument could be made that there really wasn't a campaign, you know, when he when he when he locked up the republican party endorsement when he got Donald Trump Jr's endorsement, and then when he got Donald Trump's endorsement, and that was, you know, he was already at the, the 10 yard line. And then when he made I think, which was politically a shrewd decision to not participate in the debates, he turned, what debates there were into, kind of like, what the Republican presidential debates are now, just so you know, and also ran the, you know, the Junior League debate, he set himself up as the as the front runner. And, interestingly, they didn't really like, like we're seeing in the Republican presidential debates, they didn't really attack him much they spent, they wasted their time attacking each other, somehow not realizing, I guess that Landry was the one that had to beat that. So he really, he really played kind of like his rose garden strategy. And, and then simultaneously, he's on TV presenting himself as a, as a, you know, just a basically a family man who just wants to make Louisiana a better place for your children in mind. He tamped down the culture wars a lot. And I think he just kind of waltzed in by by, you know, freezing his opposition, by wrapping up a lot of Republican support, and by really fooling a lot of people into thinking that he was something that he really isn't, and I think we're gonna see, in really short order, that he's still very much the culture warrior that he pretended not to be during the campaign.
Yeah, I mean, that was those culture war issues have been there all along. And if we hadn't, we're going to speak more about it. But if we'd had a party that was doing his job, really, they would have been highlighting that and calling that out all these years. So that by the time we got to a governor's race, the Democratic candidate could really draw contrast of here's what I will bring as governor versus what this person has already shown us who he is. And really, there wasn't anybody making that contrast.
No, there wasn't. And, you know, I spent, I did two steps of about six or eight months each, over my years taking a leave of absence to run communications for the for the Democratic Party back in the 90s. And so, you know, in 95, and when buddy Roemer was running better and eventually Mike foster ended up winning we, you know, I spent, I spent months just, you know, we, we did a tremendous amount of oppo research on on Romer, who at the time seemed to be the person who needed to be worried about and we I spent months just mining that oppo research and and trying to get it into the press and going after Romer. And you know, I think we did such a good job that we elected Mike Foster, because we weren't paying attention to him really. It took a long time for the Democrats to have an opponent and Shawn Wilson, and so no one was doing that job. Katie Barnard was going around dipping her toe into the into the water. When she should have been attacking Jeff Landry. It just it was a abdication of responsibility there. And by the time Shawn got on the race, I think it was too late because the work as you pointed out, needed to be done. Over the last couple of years, and it just wasn't anyone doing that work?
Yeah, so let's get into it. Tell me more about what you think of the barriers of the Democratic Party?
Well, some of it was concerns of comission. Like what we just discussed with with Bernhard, I think she was on this. I don't know this this ego trip or whatever. I don't know, I honestly have no idea what her what her game is. But it isn't about making the party or stronger electing Democrats, but whatever it is, it wasted a lot of time and resources. So there's that. And then I think, simultaneously, you had Sean, who is a fine guy I worked with him in in the governor's office. And I think the world of him as a human being. And as a policy maker. I think people who play at that level sometimes think that they've seen a fastball. They think they're in the big leagues, and then they get into the the, you know, they they get up to bat and they think, Oh, well, that's what a fastball really looks like what a major league fastball looks like. And I think I think Shawn would have benefited from having been through a few tough races other than that one school board race he ran 25 years ago, whatever it was 20 years ago. And this is not a criticism of Shawn necessarily. It's just like he didn't, I think he didn't have the you develop instincts. Over the course of a few campaigns, you develop instincts that tell you maybe this is the time I need to, you know, to drop the good guy persona and go after this guy, maybe this is the time when I need to counter attack, maybe this is the time when I need to preempt everything with an attack. So I don't think he I just don't think he knew what to do. And I think he maybe got some advice about what to do. But his instincts weren't Gork sharp enough, or conditioned enough, maybe it's the better way to put it, that he knew how to respond when things really got tough. And on top of that, and I think this is probably no fault of his or anybody because I don't know anybody who may be except for a few days before the election thought there was not going to be a run off. So you can forgive him for holding on to his resources, maybe even holding on to his attacks on Landry. Believing as everybody else seemed to believe that there would be a run off and that the real race would begin the morning after that first primary. And that was a tragic miscalculation. But it wasn't one that Shawn made alone, everybody, I think kind of assumed that there would be a runoff and but you know, that was that was a bad bet.
I had people predicting that there would be no runoff to me and then we're going into Election Day. I did have people texting. Now we're on off no runoff. And I didn't believe that myself, I really thought that there would be now that doesn't mean that I wouldn't have gone ahead and attacked Landry. But I of course would have been attacking Landry three years ago. rather's in the month before a runoff election, what do you think the best thing the state party could be doing now to try to restructure itself and be the opposition party it needs to be now that we've got Landry all the state elected officials are Republicans we've got majorities are super majorities in the legislature, if Republicans were really does the party need to go at this point? Well,
So I think the first part of it is, is seems to be happening where there there seem to be some new blood already elected and running for the FCC seats. I don't I haven't seen a comprehensive analysis of how many new people are on board and who they are and where they sort of stand on a new chair. So I don't know how that's going to how that's going to pan out. But I'm encouraged that there seems to be new blood. I just don't know what that's going to, if that means that there's going to be a new chair. And if there's not a new chair, then you know, that I think it's probably pretty hopeless because she she at Barnard didn't have a clue. And if she has a clue, she's not interested in doing the work that it would take to really change to change things. She just doesn't have that inner or have the desire and her so if, if, if there's not a new if there's not any chair, I don't know what you know, I just don't know how that happens. Because there's a lot of really hard work that needs to be done down at the precinct level. Got to start building a bench got to start identifying people got to be really aggressive. So there's, you know, there's almost almost no, nobody you know, there's Mandy Landry and a few people like that in the legislature who I think will be really effective spokespeople for the opposition, but the party chair needs to be that person, aggressively, relentlessly. The voice of opposition needs to be a 100% 24 hour a day seven day a week opposition party going after Landry and his radical agenda every single minute of every single day in every single media market, of this state from one corner to the other. And if it We don't have someone willing to do that, while raising a lot of money to do the work that needs to be done from the headquarters and beyond. It's going to be really hard. And what's so unfortunate to me is that we had this party had for eight years ago governor who, for whatever reason, and we could talk for an hour I think about what those reasons are but but for whatever reason, was not interested in in building the party was not interested in raising money for the party, he was estranged from the party from day one to the last day. Except when he apparently you know, join forces with him to try to beat Mandy Landry which was, you know, a disaster and and really, Ill ill advised I don't know who got him into that, that thing, but but I've seen it firsthand over a lot of years that if you've got a US senator, and like John Breaux, or governor in in Kathleen Blanco is my dad who really takes an interest in the party and the person running the party is someone that they are invent, they're invested in or they even helped install in that position. You can do a lot, you can raise a lot of money, you can bring a lot of people to you, you can generate a lot of enthusiasm. If you don't have a governor or a US senator, or, you know, a house speaker or a Senate President, it's makes it 10 times harder, it can be done. But I think we're going to have to depend on the DNC and some other institutions that are probably going to be more interested in what's going on in Georgia and Nevada and Arizona than Louisiana, because, you know, there's just nothing in Louisiana for them on a national level, to want to spend a dime here. You know, it's you'd have to have a Howard Dean, who just really is committed to a 10 year plan for Louisiana. Because in the short term, there's just there's just nothing to be gained between now and the end of 2024 When all Democrats are going to be focused on re electing Joe Biden and trying to win back the House and the Senate, and none of that is going to nothing that's going to happen to Louisiana is going to help that. Right.
Right. Well, there's the the new districts will well, we get a new district in time for that
Well, okay, so that's the one, you've identified the one thing that might help that. But that, but you know, that'll be interesting to see, I think, well, yeah, I think it looks to me like we are going to get a new district. You know, I think the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit have surprised everybody by being fairly resolute on the fact that, you know, that these are this is a this is a, an egregious violation of the Voting Rights Act and needs to be it needs to be rectified. I think it's likely that the legislature won't be won't have won't be able to do it, and that Shelley did judge Shelley didn't have to draw the districts. And what, what I think everybody's going to be interested to see is how much of that district is is how much of it is a majority minority district? Is it? How marginal is it? Is it is it a is it a, you know, lead pipe cinch? Or is it going to be close? Kind of like it wasn't Bill Cassidy and Doncaster, you were, you know, had had that had that district before? Cassidy gave a bunch of precincts to Cedric Richmond and made it very, very conservative? Or is it going to be, you know, a true minority majority district? I think we we just don't know.
And to your earlier point, you're right. I mean, when I was talking in early 2020, to folks about the state party, and, you know, Governor Edwards had just won reelection a month before and I was talking to people about what the state party really needed to do at that point. Everyone I spoke to who had worked for the party and our state, or other states, were all saying you really need this support. Whoever the highest ranking Democrat in the state is, specifically for that fundraising piece, that seemed like a really big piece of it. Now, the other piece is, you've mentioned Katie Bernhardt a few times but there's an executive committee as oversight and is able to hold the chair accountable. And I haven't really noticed them stepping up to do that, either. They could have jettisoned her January of 2023, when that ad came out, and put someone else in there at the time that might have actually had a more successful 2023, which was such a critical year for our state.
I agree. And I think that that's it, that executive committee has kind of gotten away without a lot of scrutiny, but I think you're right, they're they're as much to blame as as she is because their job is to hold her to account and make sure she's doing her job and they didn't do it. And, you know, I don't know what's going on. I don't know what the agendas are, but they're not about electing Democrats. I don't know what what they are. But it's not about getting more Democrats into in the public office.
Really, when I think about new leadership for the party. It is a new chair, but it's also an new round of folks in that executive committee. Yeah, exactly. And there are a lot of new people running. There are folks, we've been working with people all year, who are either in regional groups or constituency groups or issue based groups, and trying to get them to recruit folks to run. And they've successfully got. It's a nice voting bloc, it's about 40 people that went in unopposed from that group. Now, there's still a lot of folks who have to win their seats. But that's a nice start. Is having 40 people a good start. Yeah. Tell me what your worries are. For not you personally, because you've already talked about your job and stepping away from that. But what are your big worries for the state with Landry? And all the Republicans that are in control? Now? What are your biggest concerns?
Well, just, you know, sort of on a very, almost a personal level, I I'm, you know, I'm the, I'm the dad of a daughter of reproductive age. And, and I worry about all that, you know, my students who are a lot of my students are in the same, same boat. And you know, I mean, my daughter's got married, and I don't think she's looking to have children anytime soon. But at some point, you know, anybody who cares about these issues, even if you even if you're, if you consider yourself, quote, unquote, pro life, you know, I'm just concerned that we're going to see a lot more around the country, but particularly in Louisiana, we're gonna see a lot of people like the young woman in Texas, who are increasingly forced to leave the state to get basic medical care. They have a complicated pregnancy, not to mention just the the general loss of bodily autonomy for women in the state. And I think that's just, you know, I think it's a big concern. And we haven't really grappled with the with the the consequences of that. Yet, like some other states have been, on a on a broader level, I'm, I'm really concerned about one of the things one of the my problems in the governor's race was that there was almost no conversation, no meaningful conversation about what to do about our home insurance crisis in South Louisiana. But beyond. We had an insurance commissioner, who seems to be somebody who doesn't want to work for the insurance industry. But he did work for the insurance industry, who seems to be their representative in this office now. So there wasn't even a campaign. Right? Because he was, right. Yeah, so those issues just never got aired out. And then the governors, I think the governor, the governor, given the drone candidates should have been talking about this too, because whatever happens, is going to take the input of the legislature and the governor, it almost became it was almost a non non issue in the race. And I think it's, you know, I think it's for our economy and our future, it is the most important issue. And we didn't, we didn't talk about it. So Landry comes into office with with no mandate to do anything. And it seems like the best idea that anybody can come up with is just to give the insurance industry whatever they want, keep them here, we're not we don't seem to be that interested in exploring like they haven't, and Alabama of all places, a program to an aggressive, ambitious program to lower insurance rates by helping homeowners strengthen their roofs from hurricane damage, which seems to be the biggest, you know, claim that people have on their homes after a storm. We need to be doing that kind of thing, but there's just no conversation really about it during the race. And we're very lucky this year. We didn't have a hurricane that hit South Louisiana or Florida or anyplace really that are you know, that I guess when did hit Florida but but in South Louisiana, where I think we're sort of teetering on the edge of of calamity, one bad hurricane hitting, hitting New Orleans or Houma, Tibideaux or Lake Charles is, I think, going to be devastating for our state's economy, not only for the inability of people to get insurance, but I think it's, you know, I talked to people all the time, and I know you could do because you you live among them in ways that I don't who are probably just one more storm and I can't do it another time. I just can't do it another time. And you're gonna see people leave this state. They're already leaving the state. I mean, we've already got the biggest, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, out migrations of any state in the country. That's only going to accelerate. And and the people who are leaving are the people who are most able to leave which means they're the they're the people who are taking the most, you know, in common with them when they leave back. Yeah, right. Leaving a poor state behind. Yeah.
Yeah, that is that is very daunting. I know there is a fortified roof program. I don't know that it's been
First of all, your pilot program. Yeah. Yeah,
it really hasn't been elevated in the way it should be. But those Yeah, those tend to be my, my concerns as well as that the folks who can leave will leave, and those who can't are left with a port or state. It'll be really interesting for me to see how that translates to people, will people just become depressed and not vote? Or will there be a bit of a revolt where folks say, well, we got to change that. So when you're talking about the Democratic Party, now, will the will the voter ship of the state at some point realized that something has to change? Yeah,
and I, you know, I thought that I didn't think that, that Landry, that Landry was a lead pipe, cinch to get reelected in a runoff. If Shawn Wilson had run a really aggressive race against him and tried to use some of the issues we've been talking about against him, but particularly reproductive rights. I think it would have been, I still, you know, I still think probably, Landry would have won, but I think it could have been, it would have been closer. And I think it was his only chance of winning the race was to use that issue. I don't think he'd be willing to do that. But I say all that because I do think that there are there are opportunities for Democrats to get another look from some people, especially women, and people who care about issues related to women who people who just care about, you know, individual liberties. And I, you know, so I think that you're gonna get we're seeing in places like Kentucky, and even Ohio, and Kansas where these issues have been put on the on the ballot, that people have come out and voted in big numbers, I think that if Democrats are in Louisiana are paying attention, they're going to be talking about that in a really aggressive way. Because I think that is the way to maybe claw back into some level of respectability and competitiveness. But, you know, so far, I really haven't seen too many people willing, I think the Democrats are still a lot of Democrats, elected Democrats are still in this mode of this is still a very pro life state, heavily Catholic and all that kind of thing. And a lot of people have still not figured out that this is postdocs that the world has changed, that people are looking at these issues differently, and through a different lens than they did pre pre jobs. I mean, you got even got places like Florida, which is about to have a referendum on this, put on the ballot, you know, we can't do that here in Louisiana without the legislature. And that won't happen. But there are other ways to do it. And I think, to me, that's how we get that's how we, we win, we sort of claw back into respectability, it's gonna be a long term project. But we got to start doing it. Now we got to start, you know, and having Landry as governor who is going to be going hard, right in the other way is, is is in some ways an opportunity to really talk about that, and really drive home the distinctions and, and what he and his allies are willing to tolerate in this in the, in the way of, you know, people leaving and dying, you know, for whatever they want to call pro their pro life position.
And in the same way, we collected stories in advance of John Bell's first run for governor, those stories about Medicaid expansion and people care, this is the time to collect those stories that we can use for women and people who are pregnant, to talk about the difficulties they're having with the laws that we have and how oppressive this is for them. i It's a motivating it certainly has proven to be a motivating issue in other states that we've watched, and the polling here really bears out that the state is ready to talk about it in a different way than it used to talk about it. And I think you're right, the the the current elected officials are not catching up to it.
No, and I think it's also so yeah, I think one I think the immediate, the immediate objective, I think needs to be persuading Landry in the legislature to loosen up the exceptions, at least, you know, they're not, I think it's, it's, it's not going to happen, it's not going to happen, that they're going to we're going to go back to, you know, Roe versus Wade world. But at the very least, we should be pushing hard to make sure that young women don't die because they can't get obstetric care. And how I just don't understand how you have anybody as a, you know, quote unquote pro life politician could be opposed to that. I mean, it's just it's you know, it's, it's just it just I find it unfathomable, that that people are seem to be willing to let young women die or be near death or you know, destroy their ability to have children in in service of whatever their whatever they this this pro quote unquote pro life ideology that they that they're driving, I just don't understand it. And I think a way I think there is a way to communicate that more effectively, that might put some pressure on, you know, some, quote unquote, more moderate Republicans to, you know, to, you know, move back a little bit from that. But But so far, I haven't seen a whole, you know, a really effective campaign to do that. And it certainly didn't happen in the governor's race. I mean, it just, it just drove me crazy that the Wilson was, was terrified of the issue he should have been, he shouldn't, I can't believe he didn't find out a better way to talk about that issue than he did. It was just it just like it was almost like it terrified him to have a conversation about what was going to be the most potent issue that he would have to use if he was in a runoff. And he was he was scared to engage with it. And
we are going to be in a situation where much like pre Medicaid expansion and everybody knew somebody who couldn't get health care, we're going to end up in a position where everybody's going to know somebody who's deeply affected by this, right. Yep, that's right. What anything else? Is there anything else we're missing on the state party or the or the incoming governor?
Well, I just think, you know, the thing that I think the wildcard is that I hear a lot of people saying, you know, at LSU, for example, well, you know, Landry is not going to really come after us. He's told he's told President aid, he's not coming after tenure. And they're, you know, they're sort of taking, first of all my, my response is, Well, why would Landry tell you that he's coming, he's coming after you. I mean, that seems pretty naive. If you're going around telling people Oh, Landry is not coming after us. You know that the Russians have told us they're not going to attack Ukraine on at noon on next Thursday. So that seems kind of naive. But what I would worry about is not so much that everything that Landry that is going to be just landed his agenda, that they're going to release at the beginning of a session, say, here are the 10 things we want to do, that he's got allies in the legislature who are going to propose stuff that's going to get out of committee, and they're not going to be willing to stop it. Because, you know, we saw that in in with Bobby Jindal in his first session when a tax cut, that they were against got out of committee. And they didn't have the courage to try to stop it. Because they didn't want to be seen as anti tax. And so they had to support it. And it blew an 800 to a billion dollar hole in the budget, and was the result that was the cause of 10 years of very deep cuts to hit health care and higher education in the state. So there's, there's what Landry says he wants to do, and what he will do and what he says he wants to do, he'll probably be have no trouble getting it done, because he's got super majorities in both houses. But there's also these wildcard things that are going to that are going to, you're going to get out of the barn and take on a life of their own. And probably Landry is not going to be willing to stop them, like Jindal was unwilling to stop a tax cut. So that's what scares me is like, what are we not thinking about, that some crazy person is going to propose, and it's going to take on a life of its own, and no one's going to be willing to stop it. I mean, that's that, that's how you get the total abolishing of the tax code or something like that, you know, that's that kind of stuff, just, you know, could it could end up really causing a lot of problems for the state. That that might be really, really hard. I mean, once you've abolished your tax code, or once you've done this thing, it's really hard to put the toothpaste back in the bottle.
And about 2024. I know, you know, I always say in Louisiana, people get a little upset that we don't focus. I should shouldn't say we that I don't focus more on the Louisiana candidates and presidential years. But I always think in terms of our protections, because of the number of Republicans we have elected in the state, we require those federal protections to protect a lot of our people. So I see the presidential races and keeping the Senate and keeping the house in Washington DC, as really critical for Louisiana. It's not like I'm ignoring Louisiana. I'm specifically talking about those races, with Louisiana in mind.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, for example, the only people that care about climate change and its effect on Louisiana are politicians, except for Tory Carter, are politicians outside Louisiana. If we want to, if we want any kind of protection from the rising and subsiding, the rising seas and the subsiding coast. It's not going to come from anybody in Louisiana doing anything about it's going to come from in from national policy. So we really, you're in Louisiana, you really ought to care, who you know, who is talking about those issues and who's chairing the committee's and, and you know, what they're doing, because there's, you know, it's not going to Mike Johnson and Steve Scalise and Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy aren't going to do a thing about it. And in fact, they're working really hard to make it worse.
And I know you can't get into people's heads but just out of curiosity, because I love to hear your thoughts on things. What makes you Why Why do you think They aren't concerned with things like that. Why are they trying to make it worse? What's What's the Well, I
think they're they're, they're a wholly owned subsidiaries, the legislature as well wholly owned subsidiaries, the oil and gas industry and chemical industry. And that does a very good job of, of, you know, buying support in the legislature and in Congress. The American Petroleum Institute has turned this into a, you know, as an art and a science. And on the on the state level, there is this sense that oil and gas is the bedrock of the Louisiana economy. It's, it's, I think it's a myth. But it's it, you know, it once was, and they somehow persuaded a lot of people that were, that it's still an industry that's employing, you know, millions of people around the state when it really doesn't. But they've got a lot of, it's still got a lot of money, they're the most heavily subsidized industry in the in the in the country, that they're really well resourced, and they know how to, you know, to buy the votes that they need to keep the subsidies rolling, and the regulations relatively loose. And, you know, that's, that's, you know, not just here in Louisiana, they're good, you know, exercising their influence everywhere, but, but there are few places that I think we're the we're the impact of, of all that fossil fuel on the economy is, is, is felt more than than Louisiana. And it's just, it's just ironic that the, the state that's most at risk is the state that's got the delegation that's probably most supportive of the industry for reasons that I think are almost mythological than then true, economical, I mean, we ought to be we ought to be working really hard to change our economy. I mean, we ought to be we've got we've got a coast, we could be doing, we've got a coast and a lot of sunshine. And we could be, we could be really doubling down on renewables. And we're just, you know, we just don't seem to have it in us to do that.
Well, I don't want to keep you for too long. I appreciate your time I do before we pivot to my last three questions I loved when you mentioned in the very beginning about your parents owning a bookstore, that there's this full circle where you write books, right? You're a big reader, but you're also now a writer. Tell me about your most recent book.
Well, my most recent book is king fish, you you along and LSU. And it's the story of how Huey Long A governor gets elected to office and takes over the state's higher education institutions that history may be repeating itself, but it's the story of how LSU really wouldn't be the university that it is today if it hadn't been for you long, lifting it out of really obscurity and mediocrity and, and making it into a football and academic powerhouse in the in the early to mid 1930s.
And where would people find this book if they were
waiting? It's in bookstores everywhere. I'm selling them. I sell signed personalized autographed copies on my website, kingfish you.com, but it's on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And just about everywhere. Is that?
Are there any other books that you're still pushing?
I've just finished my next book that I sent to LSU Press last week. It's the working title is You Are My Sunshine Jimmy Davis and the biography of a song. So that'll be out in about a year.
That's awesome. I know this year, I guess the 60th anniversary? Is it of that song being the state song.
So I guess it was 73. So yeah, that's right. Yep.
It's the governor's mansion, Christmas ornament this year as You Are My Sunshine. Because I didn't know that. Oh, that's great. Yeah. And in fact, because we do that organizer of the month, every month. With the bayou brief. We actually use the sunshine imagery this year, just as a nod to that. That anniversary of that song. You are my sunshine. Yeah. Oh, that's great. What's that? I'm looking forward to that look, then that's very exciting. Last three questions. What do you see as the biggest hurdle for Democrats in Louisiana right now?
Um, apathy and a sense of just powerlessness. I think that that can be a self fulfilling prophecy, if you feel you know, I think it's just I think we've kind of talked about this. But just if you feel like there's just no way to make a change, there's no way to make any progress. You're apt to give up. And I worry about that.
And what's the biggest opportunity for Democrats?
Well, again, that we kind of talked about that too, and I think it is more effective messaging. We'll do things new leadership, and more and better and better messaging about some of the some of the issues that are really important to us and drawing those distinctions between Democrats and Republicans. And I think the first one has got to be got to be reproductive rights.
Agree, Agree. And Bob, who's your favorite superhero? Batman. Nice. Why is that? Well, I
you know, I grew up watching those Batman shows in the 60s and and Superman every afternoon, you know, I'd watch those shows. And for some reason Batman was always more relatable to me. You know, Superman was the could do anything, but he just, I found I always found Batman more, you know, more relatable. So, yeah. You have more human. Yep, exactly.
Well, thank you so much for joining me and sharing your thoughts. It's been so happy we finally got to do it and just really appreciate.
Same here it is. It was a really enjoyable conversation and thanks for all you do. Thank
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