Other Voices: In wake of Louisiana's election, a call for humility and wisdom

The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

Politics is often a pageant of vanity, perhaps especially so in Louisiana, where campaigning has a long tradition of colorful theater.

But in the wake of the Nov. 16 election, in which incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards won a second term in a close contest, humility should be a prevailing theme within both major parties.

We congratulate Edwards on an impressive win, one secured against formidable political headwinds. As a Democrat in a deeply red state, Edwards overcame vigorous GOP opposition, including visits to the state by Republican President Donald Trump on behalf of Edwards’ rival, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

But the fact Rispone, a political newcomer, came within striking distance of victory demonstrates considerable unhappiness with the status quo in Louisiana. The hunger for change is evident, and Edwards cannot secure a meaningful legacy for his administration by standing still.

Republicans have cause for humility, too, although they now hold every other statewide office and command a considerable majority in both houses of the Legislature. Their failure to recapture the Governor’s Mansion suggests that Edwards’ appeal to pragmatism rather than party is something voters like. It’s a principle lawmakers should keep in mind when the Legislature convenes next year.

Humility, it has been said, is the beginning of wisdom, and Louisiana, which lags the nation on many quality of life indicators, obviously needs as much wisdom as it can get.

Campaigns are ideally meant to yield such insight, and on that score, this year’s gubernatorial campaign was a grave disappointment. The candidates threw lots of mud at each other without offering much detail about how they would lead Louisiana the next four years. A state so far behind in education and economic growth can’t afford such empty exercises in cynicism.

Even so, this year’s contest for Louisiana’s highest office did manage to produce at least a couple of lessons.

Rispone’s tactic of holding few public events, relying instead on TV ads and social media, didn’t get him over the finish line. In Louisiana, voters apparently still want to see their leaders — and those who aspire to lead — in person. That’s a healthy civic tradition, one that should remain undiminished even in a digital age.

Rispone also failed in framing his candidacy as a referendum on Trump, arguing that a vote for Eddie Rispone would send a message of support for the embattled president to Washington, D.C.

But Louisiana’s voters can send a message to Washington the next time they vote for a president or a member of Congress. At the state level, it’s important to elect a governor who offers the most compelling vision for fulfilling Louisiana’s promise.

Voters chose Edwards. We wish him well. He has his work cut out for him.

Today's Bible verse

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

— John 1:1-3

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