Actually, no Louisianan has ever been elected President. Zachery Taylor might barely qualify, although he spent very little time down in the Deep South. Oneresident of the Bayou State did make it to the nation’s highest court. Edward Douglass White, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years between 1894-1921. In 1910, at the age of 65, White was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President William Howard Taft.
The latest Louisiana native to give the presidency a good look is former one term Governor Buddy Roemer, whokicked off his campaign at a presidential forum in Iowa this week. Roemer right now is the longest of long shots, but so was his case back in 1987 when he pulled an upset victory to get elected as governor. He beat quite a pack of candidates back then, including incumbent Governor Edwin Edwards, Congressman Billy Tauzin, future Speaker of the U.S. House Bob Livingston, and some other forgettable character named Brown.
Roemer is taking on the system and the other Republican candidates by chastising the moneyed interests in politics. He’s going after Washington lobbyists, Middle East oil money, and ethanol subsidies that he says are ruining the country and its politics. “I declare my independence,” Roemer told the crowd. “Tell people a seasoned warrior against special interest money is in the race. Washington is not about leadership. Washington is not about people. Washington is about money and re-election.”
So is Roemer undertaking a fruitless effort and becoming the Don Quixote of the presidential season? Maybe not. It will all come down to money. Roemer is, and has always been, a good messenger. But to get his message out, it will take big bucks. He has a self-imposed rule of refusing any money from political action committees, nor will he take any individual donations greater than one hundred dollars. It took Obama $250 million to get the democratic nomination. Do the math, and you will see Roemer needs several truckloads of checks to be competitive.
Current Governor Bobby Jindal, with his obvious national ambitions, keeps raising money nationwide, but will sit on the debate sidelines while dealing with a huge budget crisis back home in Louisiana. But don’t think that Jindal would not jump at the chance to be on a national ticket as vice president. Roemer actually helps Jindal’s chances by keeping an articulate voice from Louisiana in the national spotlight.
So who were the other candidates? Edwin Edwards gave a national race a good look back in 1978 when the President Jimmy Carter was floundering. Edwards just didn’t like Carter, and had read several books on how the former Georgia Governor had come from obscurity to the Presidency. Edwards toyed with the idea for six months, and then ended up supporting Republican Ronald Reagan.
John McKeithen sought the national stage, and thought he had a commitment to be the Vice Presidential candidate on the Hubert Humphrey ticket in 1968. The Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue in Chicago was the convention headquarters, and I had trekked up to the Windy City as an observer. I happened to be on the hotel elevator when McKeithen and Sen. Russel Long got on. Long later told me they were on their way up to the penthouse meet with Humphreys and solidify McKeithen’s position as the vice presidential nominee. Humphrey changed his mind from his earlier commitment, turned McKeithen down, and the Louisianan governor immediately left the convention to return home in a huff.
Don’t forget Huey Long, who had all but announced a challenge to sitting President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Though a backer of Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election, Long split with the President in June 1933, and planned to mount his own presidential bid for 1936 in alliance with radio's influential Catholic priest Charles Coughlin. Long was assassinated in 1935, and rumors abounded that his presidential ambitions played a role in why he was shot to death.
So we have Long, McKeithen, Edwards, Jindal and now Roemer. All served in congress except McKeithen. And they were all short. I wonder how the results would come out if we took the three living candidates and had a Louisiana primary? Roemer, Jindal and Edwards. Yes, ole’ EWE is eligible under federal law to run for president. Who do you think would be the top vote getter in this three man race?
Right now, it’s just Buddy Roemer in the national mix. At 67, Roemer is telling the nation that he is “old enough to know what to do and young enough to get it done.” Remember that the first primary is in Iowa, and the winner is determined by a small number of voters who have to show up on election night in person. If Roemer’s gift of gab can create some sparks and convince a respectable number of reformers in the Buckeye state to jump on his band wagon, who knows how far the Shreveport native might go.
In the meantime, I say let’s go with our own state in the presidential primary. Along with Roemer, Jindal and Edwards, let’s thrown in country singer Tim McGraw, a Louisiana native who has expressed great interest in politics. And maybe Saints Quarterback Drew Brees and
General Russell Honore’ to round out the slate. Mardi Gras just ended, so we need something way down here in the deep south to keep us occupied.
“I never lose. Even when I’m the underdog, I still prepare a victory speech.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.