How a Flailing Politician Bet the Farm on a Tragedy – and Lost
Sen. David Vitter, R-La. who won re-election to the Senate despite his encounters with the “D.C. Madam” was lagging by double digits behind Democrat John Bel Edwards in his quest for the governorship of Louisiana when the Paris tragedy struck.
Probably inspired by Republicans’ political abuse of the Paris massacre, their use of fear tactics and by Donald Trump’s rise in Conservative polls every time the Republican presidential wannabe makes outrageous remarks about refugees and Muslims, Vitter thought he would give that a try.
So, barely three days after France experienced the worst massacre since World War II, a “redeemed” Vitter, trailing by double digits in the polls, “immediately seized on whether the United States should admit Syrian refugees…went to Washington to give a floor speech on Syria, publicly sent a letter warning of a ,missing’ refugee and got on TV just a little more than 48 hours after the carnage in France with an advertisement invoking the horror,” according to James Hohmann at the Washington Post.
James Hohmann describes how Vitter bet the farm on tragedy and fear mongering — and (fortunately) lost.
He quotes Elisabeth Pearson, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, “Republicans have gotten very good at using fear tactics…Before it popped in polling, we knew it was important to address the issue. It had the capacity to change the fundamental question of what the race was about. We addressed it in a way that didn’t allow the race to deteriorate.”
Vitter’s ad, running on Monday, opened with the sound of a bomb blast and showed panic at the Paris soccer stadium that was attacked by a suicide bomber. “Obama’s sending Syrian refugees to Louisiana,” the narrator said. “David Vitter warned Obama of the danger of Syrian refugees weeks ago, and promised as governor, no Syrian refugees will enter Louisiana. John Bel Edwards has promised to work with Obama to bring Syrian refugees to Louisiana.”
(Watch the ad below)
But it is not all kudos and “attaboys” for Edwards either:
The Democratic candidate initially botched his response. A note on Edwards’ Facebook page said he’d work to “both accommodate refugees who are fleeing from religious persecution and ensure that all our people are safe.” Then he edited “accommodate” to “assist,” before putting out a statement that declared, “In light of the recent tragedy in Paris, it’s imperative for us to pause the influx of refugees flowing into our state without more information on the security measures in place.”
Nevertheless, the fear mongering may have started to work for Vitter as, “Internal polls showed the race tightening during the final week, but Vitter wound up losing by 12 points, 56-44, when all the votes were counted. Edwards became the first Democrat to win statewide in Louisiana since 2008. He will be just one of two Democrats to hold statewide office in the Deep South. The other is Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.”
Margaret Carlson at the Chicago Tribune had this to say before the elections, “Vitter looked like a sex scandal might bar his path to Baton Rouge. If he gets there, it will be by way of Paris.”
What would it have said about Louisianans if Vitter’s detour via Paris had worked?
More important, what will it say about Americans if Trump’s shameful detours via hate, bigotry and prejudice work?