Monday, 08 December 2014 16:11

Chehardy: Lesson from Landrieu loss, extremism hurts

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obamacare-deadThe last race in the country for the U.S. Senate is over.  On Saturday, Louisiana voters elected Congressman Bill Cassidy to serve as their next U.S. Senator.  It is unusual for an incumbent senator to be defeated for re-election in Louisiana but this election was unusual from the beginning.


Hot political races usually revolve around issues and how to make things better and how to improve the quality of life.  Candidates will debate their ideas for the future and voters will make a decision on which candidate to vote for.  Although mudslinging and attacks will eventually come, there are usually discussions among voters about the various candidates’ positions on issues.  The print media may even list the issues and show the candidates’ positions on those issues.  But none of that happened in this election.  Instead it revolved around one and only one issue.  The issue?  The singular combination into one package of President Barack Obama and Obama Care.

Senator Mary Landrieu has been a loyal democrat throughout her nearly eighteen years in the Senate.  She has supported democratic causes in Congress especially supporting programs for the poor and disadvantaged, but she has always supported local issues that were good for Louisiana.  These included her support for the oil and gas industry, the ports, including the Port of New Orleans, and highway and transportation funding for Louisiana.  Her help for the state in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was instrumental in the state’s recovery.  Unfortunately, this time, her accomplishments and hard work did not persuade voters.  Senator Landrieu’s vote for Obama Care and her strong vocal support for it including a statement that she made saying she would vote for it again were not well received by Louisiana voters.

A U.S. Senator should be able to keep a handle on the pulse of his or her constituents.  Senator Landrieu lost her handle for the mood of the people.  Obama Care was never popular in Louisiana.  In fact it was never popular anywhere and democrats should have realized it from the very beginning.

Standing by a program as unpopular as Obama Care makes no sense.  Simply traveling around the state, talking to the local Kiwanis Clubs, church groups, business groups and others like them, should have been enough to realize that support for Obama Care was weak and suspect at best.  Saying we can fix it, when people despise it, never works.  What were congressional democrats thinking?  Were they so insulated from voters that they did not see it coming?  I doubt it.  Instead democrats decided to abdicate the legislative branch to the executive, and simply do whatever President Obama wanted and not worry what voters back home thought.  What a mistake!  Democrats have only themselves to blame.

There is a lesson to be learned from all of this.  The blind following by the democrats in Congress of President Obama’s far left agenda was a huge mistake.  Obama Care as passed was a huge mistake.  The passage of such major, far reaching legislation requires broad support from people of all political persuasions.  Just as President Lyndon Johnson reached out to Senate Republicans to pass civil rights legislation, President Obama and congressional democrats should have reached out to republicans for their support.  They did not, and Obama Care only had the support of democrats in Congress.  It went too far too quickly.  A less ambitions, less intrusive piece of legislation, even without republican support, may have resulted in a different outcome, likely more positive for democrats, but such logical thinking was just not meant to be.  A president ill prepared to serve in the nation’s highest office, advisers more committed to philosophical purity that required an all or nothing approach, and congressional democrats with more than enough votes to do whatever they wanted to do and more committed to blindly following their democratic president than passing workable legislation were a formula for disaster.  If only a few democrats had stood up and said not so fast, slow down, the basic goals of the Affordable Care Act may have been achievable without the widespread opposition that Obama Care has gotten.

Hopefully, both parties have learned about extremism.  Now the ball is in the hands of the republicans.  Let’s hope they don’t fumble it too.  If they do they will once again be looking in from the outside.  My advice to both parties is simple.  The American people want progress, not infighting.  Americans want the president and congress to work together to solve our nation’s many problems and to protect us against terrorist threats from around the world.  Stay away from the extremes.  It is not an all or nothing game.  The American people are depending on you so get to work.

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Lawrence Chehardy

For thirty-four years Lawrence Chehardy served as Assessor of Jefferson Parish. He has been the leading authority on Louisiana’s property tax laws. In addition to his political commentary and public speaking engagements, Lawrence Chehardy is a founding member of the Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Murray, Recile, Griffith, Stakelum & Hayes Law Firm and serves as its managing partner.

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