Republican Bobby Jindal won election as governor of Louisiana, Oct. 20, with a campaign that evaded the issues while offering barely coded appeals to racism in the case of the Jena Six.
Jindal won 53 percent of the vote in a primary election marked by low turnout. Under Louisiana law, all candidates run in an open multiparty primary in which voters can cross party lines. If a candidate receives a simple majority in the primary, he or she is automatically declared winner of the general election. Jindal’s opposition was split 11 ways.
According to The Times-Picayune newspaper, voter turnout statewide was 45 percent, meaning Jindal takes office with about 23 percent of the eligible vote. In New Orleans, the turnout was 27 percent, or 75,880 votes, compared with 122,000 who voted in New Orleans in the 2003 pre-Katrina gubernatorial election. Statewide, 51 percent of whites voted, but only 35 percent of eligible African Americans. Jindal received only 10 percent of the Black vote.
Jindal was also helped by the purging of the voter rolls in Louisiana of tens of thousands of Katrina evacuees, a majority African American voters from heavily Democratic Orleans Parish. State Rep. Juan LaFonta (D-New Orleans) pointed out that thousands of African American voters were not allowed to vote in their accustomed places in New Orleans. “I’m very disappointed. I feel like I’m in Florida, not Louisiana,” he said, referring to the stolen 2000 election.
While campaigning in Shreveport, Sept. 20, Jindal was asked about the 50,000 people who demonstrated peacefully in support of the six Black teenagers in nearby Jena that same day. “We certainly don’t need any outside agitators coming in here,” Jindal said, echoing a line used against the civil rights movement by a string of segregationist governors throughout the South in the 1960s.
Jindal voiced full support for the LaSalle Parish court’s handling of the Jena Six case, even though outrage has spread across the nation that District Attorney Reed Walters and LaSalle Parish Judge J.P. Mauffray have enforced one code of justice for the Black youth and another for the white youth.
Mauffray threw 17-year-old Mychal Bell back in prison for 18 months, saying Bell violated his probation for a previous conviction. The judge took this action even though an appeals court threw out Bell’s conviction on aggravated battery charges.
Alan Bean, director of Dallas-based Friends of Justice who has traveled to Jena 17 times working for justice for Jena Six, told the World, “There are plenty of white voters who think the Jena Six are getting what they deserve, and guys like Jindal know that is what they think.”
Tannie Lewis Bradley, an African American community activist writing in a Shreveport Times op-ed, said, “I would like to ask Mr. Jindal if he honestly believes that the legal system would have acted with deliberate speed when Black churches were being burned and bombed, angry white mobs were attacking school children, terrorists (Klansmen) were riding … and politicians were shouting ‘segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.’”
She continued, “I hope Mr. Jindal’s reference to ‘outside agitators’ is not a veiled shout of ‘injustice today, injustice tomorrow, injustice forever’” for the Jena Six and other African Americans in Louisiana.
Jindal is the first Indian American ever elected to govern a state in the United States. His election was greeted widely with jubilation in the Indian American community. But many in the South Asian community note that his record in the U.S. Congress has been unwavering support of George W. Bush’s Iraq war and the rest of the administration’s right-wing agenda.
Jindal advocates the teaching of “intelligent design” in the public schools. He has been remarkably quiet in the face of nationwide outrage at the Bush administration’s betrayal of victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana.
He raised at least $11 million in campaign contributions, much of from Texas-based oil and gas corporations. Richard Kinder, a G.W. Bush “Pioneer,” former CEO of Enron and the current founder of Kinder-Morgan Energy Partners, one of the nation’s largest oil and gas pipeline companies, gave Jindal $5,000. Kinder is worth an estimated $10 billion. In one year, Kinder gave $470,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee. Another Jindal donor who also gave $5,000 is Ray Hunt of Dallas, a scion of the oil and silver magnate H.L. Hunt, notorious for his fascist-like sympathies. Pfizer, the pharmaceutical
giant, also gave the maximum to Jindal.
A New Orleans blogger, Kingfish, charged that Jindal’s opponents, Democrats and independents, “were too scared to attend the Jena Six marches (except John Georges) … too scared to call out Jindal for echoing the awful, loaded phrases of past segregationists.”
Throwing young Bell back in jail “shows malice on the judge’s part,” Bean said. “The demand has to be a change of venue. If this case went to trial outside LaSalle Parish, Bell would go free because there just isn’t the evidence to convict him.”
The evidence against the other five defendants is even more flimsy, he said. Now, he said, is the time to join the half million or more who have signed petitions demanding “Free the Jena Six.”
Jindal’s election won’t make that demand go away.