By: Willmarine B. Hurst
Well, election day in New Orleans has come and gone, but there’s still some discussion about low voter turnout – especially in the African-American community. Calls were made, email and tweets were sent to friends, relatives and church members urging them to get out and vote. Yet, the turnout was a dismal 36 percent.
New Orleanians are used to their cries falling on deaf ears. And for the unconcerned there is no consequence for not voting. To them, voting only means that they get to see a familiar face that is controlled by others more powerful behind the scenes. Everyday working poor don’t feel a loss regarding their non-voting status.
The mayoral race was one of the top races, with the sheriff’s race coming in second. For me, the low voter turnout can be summed up by two things: apathetic residents and disingenuous candidates.
Apathetic residents: Most working class poor and regular everyday folks are very apathetic about voting. They see the situation as “six on one side; half a dozen on the other.” Many feel that it would not make a difference to them whoever gets in office.
In the case of the mayoral race, a lot of people believed that it didn’t make a difference whether the candidate was white or Black—they still would not be helped; nothing would change for them. They feel like they do not really have a say in governmental issues. They believe that politics is for the rich and privileged. So, they don’t vote. They don’t care. They are not conscious, concerned citizens. They are just trying to survive in the daily grind of minimal wage jobs. And since they feel like they don’t really count, they just don’t spend their time voting. They are apathetic, indifferent, uninterested, unconcerned. This is fueled by the normalcy of neglect.
None of the candidates were able to show how they would move impoverished people up the economic ladder. So, the working poor get used to being over policed; they get use to the filthy streets—or streets that get repaired only when the neighborhood’s demographics begin to change.
Only those with resources get a say in this city because if you have money and power you can lobby for what you want. But if you are moneyless and powerless all you’re doing is professional bitching, and that gets you nowhere.
Every Candidate was Disingenuous.
Personally, I felt that it was disingenuous of Mike Bagneris to get in the mayoral race days before qualifying ended. He didn’t really have a platform. His concern for reforming the NOPD was not enough. The crime problem can be summed up in one word: economics. No jobs, no resources in the city, no livable wages is a recipe for crime. The NOPD can be increased with a thousand additional men; it won’t help until there is some economic stimulus in the city. Bagneris never mentioned how he could improve the economy in the city.
How can someone get into a race to run the city and NOT address the issue of economics? Furthermore, I thought that it was disingenuous of him to think that sitting on “a bench” and “listening” for 20 years gave him the skills and knowledge to run the city. Also, what he did 20 years ago does not help what is needed now. What has he done for the city, post Hurricane Katrina? How has he helped the people in the city in the last five or 10 years? Twenty years ago, one of the quickest ways of sending and receiving information was faxing; today you can reach hundreds of people through Twitter and Instagram. New Orleans was a very different city 20 years ago—even eight years ago, pre Katrina.
Yes, I think that it was disingenuous of him to get in the race simply because some people just don’t like Mitch Landrieu.
I also think that it was disingenuous of Danatus King to get into a million-dollar race with a hundred-dollar budget. What’s the point of running if you can’t do yourself and your community justice by getting your message out? King had done some great things on a grassroots level for people in this city, but how does that equate to running a multi-million dollar city budget? If you can’t afford to run, then don’t grandstand; because if you get in the race, you need to get in it to win—not to make a point. That’s just not fair to you and the people who support you and are looking to you for change. King could have best spent his money on something more useful for his organization.
And lastly, I thought that it was disingenuous for Landrieu to use all the church songs, references to spirituality and ‘togetherness’ just to make his point. Though he took credit for a lot of things that were implemented by the former mayor, he could still point to something on the ‘ground level,’ like the Costco and the Circle Food Store. But all the photo ops and hugging on the African-American people was disingenuous and phony. (But we didn’t see Mike or Danatus out there with the kids, so…) Notwithstanding, there are a lot of people in the African-American community that actually do like Mitch and feel that he is doing a good job. You can’t take that away from him. He was able to get the crossover votes that he needed, whereas both Mike and Danatus were not. They probably got a few votes from some disgruntled white people who were upset with Mitch, but not enough to make a difference.
In 2008, I thought that it was disingenuous of Landrieu to come down from Baton Rouge to run against Ray Nagin after the storm. And of course, it was disingenuous of Nagin to change to a Democrat to run for mayor in the first place.
However, good luck to Marlin Gusman and Dr. Dwight McKenna in their run-off races.
Look for low voter turnout in this one, too.
Willmarine B. Hurst is a freelance writer and former Substitute Teacher for the Orleans Parish School Board as well as the Plano Independent School District.
She has written articles, editorials and commentaries for the LA Weekly, the Times-Picayune, the Dallas Weekly, USA Today and The New Orleans Tribune, where she also worked as the Editorial Assistant. She is a mother and grandmother and her passion and concern are for the youth of this city. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.