He made his first substantive comments on the matter after the House voted yesterday. And while he wasn't as clear as members of the Legislative Black Caucus were, or as activists in New Orleans and, yes, even Mitch Landrieu have been that the monument preservation movement is really a white supremacist movement, he definitely showed enough skepticism to clue us in about his intent. So can we move on now? Maybe not yet.
The monuments issue has been refreshingly clarifying in local politics. It's shown us just how ingrained old racial attitudes are among some of our city's more powerful figures. It's been especially satisfying to watch erstwhile friends and allies of the mayor grumble under their breath (and sometimes just whine loudly and publicly) at him. I'd like to also be able to congratulate Mitch on having the "courage" to stick to his guns throughout. But that would give him too much credit for exhibiting moral principle where we know it's probably just astute political calculation. However he got there, though, he has been on the right side of a major controversy so there's that. Dole out whatever credit you may think is due.
The bigger story, though, is that we've reached a place where even when the mayor makes a cynical political calculation, the result is positive. It suggests that the next mayor won't have to have old money whites in his or her corner in order to build a successful campaign. That hasn't been true since pre-Nagin days.
Republicans in the Legislature are hoping the monuments issue works differently statewide than it does in Orleans Parish. Everything they've done this session has been about setting up the next campaign against the Governor and this is no different. The idea here is to score a cheap wedge by forcing the Governor to veto a monuments bill. They might be making a mistake, though. There are times when a principled stand on a symbolic issue like this can turn the political calculus in your favor regardless of what the polling and conventional wisdom says at the time. This might turn out to be one of those moments for John Bel.
Chances are the thing won't get to his desk. But political strategists on both sides have a lot to consider before they decide whether or not they actually want it to get there.