Calling an Appel an Orange: One State Senator’s Love Note to Bad Government and Legislative Incompetence

Louisiana State Sen. Conrad Appel, a term-limited Republican from Metairie and a man who spent his years as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee embarrassing the state in front of the entire world by refusing to allow to a full vote on a bill endorsed by more Nobel Prize winners than any other piece of legislation in American history, is now moonlighting as a columnist on the conservative blog, The Hayride. Among other things, The Hayride is best known for reporting the influx of 10,000 of Syrian refugees into Louisiana (the correct number was 13) and selling fake steroids through its mailing list. So, obviously, it is the perfect venue for a state senator who somehow managed to hang onto his job after defeating a fellow Republican who called for providing $1,000 to any woman on welfare who gets sterilized. Appel won with 14,701 votes. Voluntary Sterilization Man, John LaBruzzo, received 11,109 votes. It could have been a closer race, actually. Voluntary Sterilization Man has been elected before, made a “name” for himself, but when he discovered Appel had stock in Microsoft and also supported Common Core, Voluntary Sterilization did what most people  no one in their right mind would do: Voluntary Sterilization accused Conrad Appeal of purchasing a few shares in Microsoft, a company with $470 billion in assets, as if it was some sort get rich-quick corruption scheme. It back-fired. Duh. Voluntary Sterilization had to apologize and, embarrassingly, change his mailers. It had once looked promising for Voluntary Sterilization, but his candidacy would never rebound. Voluntary Sterilization’s loss is a gain to anyone who appreciates reading the lyrical jazz prose and soaking in the cognitive dissonance of Conrad Appel’s blog posts. Since Appel has opposed science education during his state senate career, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that he is such a skilled post-factual writer. His most recent opus titled “A Stalemate at the Legislature Was a Victory for Louisiana, Not a Defeat” is a classic example (and an impressive nod to George Orwell). Let’s unpack the post: Appel writes:
“What we saw this week was a powerful lesson in raw democracy. No, not the Comey hearings, the event was the deadlock reached by the Louisiana Legislature over the next fiscal year’s budget.”
In this context, “raw democracy” refers to a type of government that is prone to being infected by incompetence and corruption.
“The media is having a field day, ‘the legislature failed on all counts!’ Actually nothing could be further from the truth.”
The legislature has not passed tax reform, and at the time Appel wrote this opus, they hadn’t passed a budget either. But they did manage to change the name of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, against the widespread opposition of nearly everyone who ever attended the school, and in doing so, they somehow ended up making the new name into a perfect metaphor for bureaucratic incompetence: The Jimmy D. Long, Sr. Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a name so long and so clumsy that, in most cases, the school legally won’t have to use it. Either way, count one for the legislature. Great investment of three and a half hours during the final week in session!
“Because the legislature is the voice of the people it is acting in accordance with that voice.”
Where have we heard that tautological word salad before? Oh yeah.
“Through a twist of fate (1) we have a governor who comes from a political philosophy that is remarkably different from that of the majority of citizens (2). His election, considered by most to have been more a rejection of the other candidate than anything else (3), did not mark as some would have us believe a reversion to the decades-old Louisiana political ideology that has resulted in our state being last in all measures of success (4).”
(1). Sen. Appel is referring to Sen, David Vitter’s predilection for prostitutes. “Twist of fate” is here a reference to the Bob Dylan song, “Simple Twist of Fate.” (2) John Bel Edwards is a pro-life, pro-gun Catholic who campaigned on a platform of criminal justice reform, Medicaid expansion, restoring funding to higher education, fixing the state’s budget by eliminating unnecessary exemptions and by raising revenue through fairer tax policy, increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, enacting non-discrimination policies that protect LGBT Louisianians in the workforce and housing, and instituting equal pay laws that ensure women earn the same salary as a man does in the same job. Gov. Edwards was elected with 56.1% of the vote and is currently one of the nation’s most popular governors, with 60% approval. What Appel really means is that John Bel Edwards, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger, has a remarkably different political philosophy from people like Conrad Appel, a wealthy construction company executive. (3) Sen. Appel is still managing his grief, y’all. It’s a process. (4) Sen. Appel is here referring to Gov. Bobby Jindal, making one wonder if hypnosis and experimental therapy have allowed him the ability to forget the years 2008 through 2015 entirely.
“Rather than the fluke that was the governor’s election, a far better measure of the thinking of the Louisiana people was revealed in the elections of our very conservative House of Representatives, our statewide elected officials, and in the overwhelming win by President Trump. So why the apparent failure of the legislative process? Well in fact I believe that the deadlock that was reached clearly demonstrates the success, not the failure, of our democratically elected republican form of state government.”
This is the part where Conrad Appel attempts to argue that voters want him to be terrible at his job on purpose, because he shouldn’t have to accept the election of the governor as something that actually happened. 646,924 Louisianians voted to give John Bel Edwards the keys to the Governor’s Mansion, helping him beat the state’s senior U.S. Senator, who had never before lost an election.  Yet Appel thinks that Donald Trump, a thrice-married billionaire from New York is a better representative of Louisiana values than the current governor. In Appel’s world, legislative failure is success. Gridlock is progress. Later in the post, Appel writes:
“Returning to the relations between the governor and the legislature, especially the House from which all tax and spending bills must start, we now have a deep ideological divide between an old-school populist governor and a legislature whose complexion is strongly fiscally conservative. Many in the media tend to support the governor’s liberal ways, with some reporters actually being nicknamed “the governor’s press corps.” So the message that the people get, a distortion in the worst circumstance, is one of legislative disorder, bad leadership, and general failure.”
In causing deadlock, Appel and his Republican colleagues in the Senate are not practicing fiscal conservatism, but neglecting their responsibility to the state. Appel’s party’s fiscal stewardship has led to a downgrade in the state’s credit rating, undermined our universities, jeopardized critical infrastructure projects, closed hospitals, and continuously put critical services for vulnerable Louisianians—children, elderly people, and people with disabilities—in existential peril. Appel and the House Republicans had an opportunity this year to fix those mistakes, but didn’t because they are still under the illusion that Louisiana can cut our way to prosperity. Appel’s post is emblematic of the House Republican’s modus operandi: he is adept at spinning facts and situations so that the other side always looks wrong, no matter how far he has to stray from reality. In other words, he’s a perfect fit for The Hayride.