Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mitch Landrieu's Win Is Not About Black vs. White

When news came that Mitch Landrieu had won the New Orleans mayor's race, I was reclining on my sofa with a headache, watching a horrible made-for-TV SyFy Channel movie. (Maybe that was making my headache worse.) And I was thinking about how I'd be watching the Super Bowl Sunday even though I'm not into football. Come on, it's great news for the city.

Anyway, I read the news that Landrieu won in a landslide on my Blackberry and then put the Blackberry on the table next to me. Really, there was nothing shocking about that victory, and for all the fake controversy about the mayoral race and whether New Orleans would elect its first white mayor since the 70s, the black-white divide story was manufactured nonsense from myopic sensationalists and ignorant pundits.

Once Landrieu entered the race, it was over. I said that to my dad, 89, who agreed, and I got silent on Twitter more or less about the race because I didn't want to be a wet blanket on the James Perry tweeting party.

Princeton professor and New Orleans activist Melissa Harris-Lacewell was supporting the young, fairly unknown Perry, and lots of tweeting NOLA hipsters plugged him, but as kindly as I feel toward James, I knew he wouldn't win. Regarding the rest, I told jokes about John Georges, who seems to run for everything, and seeing that Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizaro supported Georges only served to downgrade the rich guy more in my eyes. I think Cannizaro only cares about Cannizaro, not the city.

As for everyone else running, I kind of ignored 'em, including the very Raginesque Troy Henry, Raginesque roots-wise. I only observed him from the standpoint of studying black Creole power structures in New Orleans today.

Landrieu is not only the city's first white mayor since 1978, he is also the son of the last white mayor, Moon Landrieu.
When he takes office May 6, Landrieu will become the city's first white chief executive since his father, Moon Landrieu, left the job in 1978. Early analysis shows that Mitch Landrieu's victory owed to widespread crossover voting by African-Americans, who make up two-thirds of the city's residents. (
New Orleanians with deep city roots, regardless of race and prior to Landrieu coming in, looked at the field of mayoral candidates and were scared witless. None of the candidates had the political clout or experience needed to lead this city into a new era of recovery. The ones who seemed capable were too unknown and the ones who were known seemed too incapable.

Landrieu won for the same reasons I tired to explain at when telling readers the whispers about Brad Pitt were a joke, for real. New Orleans needed a mayor with solid, old-school political connections and Mitch Landrieu, former Lt. Governor and brother of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, comes from a political dynasty.

Sometimes it's good to vote for the new fresh face who is the smartest dog, but the smart voter knows that sometimes the best person for the job is an old dog who knows old tricks. I'm not saying Landrieu will do a wonderful job. I'm saying I hope he does and he should because he grew up in the game so has tricks up his sleeve, and I think he actually appreciates the city's culture and gumbo-flavored history. I suspect he understands what must be preserved to nourish the future.

Also, I suspect Landrieu will not be saying anything stupid like Nagin did after Katrina or like Stacy Head has at City Council meetings. Boy, I can't believe some folks thought she should run for mayor, but she was wise enough to reject the notion. However, I have trouble believing she was re-elected to her old seat. What are people in her district smoking?

Neither do I think Landrieu will hide behind technicalities to avoid transparency the way Ray Nagin has. At least I hope Landrieu is savvy enough not to do that.

Landrieu's win is about more than the city's demographics changing or any racial unrest. It's about a city recovering, growing up, and understanding after five years of post-Katrina wild-eyed desperation dotted with dog and pony shows downtown, New Orleans needs to get busy with getting better.

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