Monday, April 15, 2019

Chaos Mayor

Gill isn't wrong to write about this, exactly. It's just that his premise is a bit off.
It cannot be said that LaToya Cantrell was elected mayor of New Orleans just because voters believed she would get rid of traffic cameras, but her stance sure was wildly popular.

Cantrell is hardly the first politician to abandon her principles on election, or to resort to dirty tricks. But it requires a special talent to do both at the same time.
The problem is Cantrell never really had a stance to reverse herself on in the first place.  From the very beginning of her campaign, she was impossible to pin down on the question even though she raised it herself in her opening speech.
In the course of less than 24 hours, New Orleans controversial traffic cameras came down, went back up, and then came down again. They did, at least, in the context of mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell's campaign promises, which were laid out, taken back and then reaffirmed.
Maybe it's just a function of the prevailing political zeitgeist but I've been interested in the way our mayor's style tracks with that of whoever is President during their term. Nagin and Bush were possessed of an avuncular goofiness you might mistake for charm if it weren't in service to naked corruption and incompetence. Mitch and Obama were more professional and polished and dangerously adept at masking predatory capitalist policy choices with woke sounding platitudes.

LaToya has characteristics in common with Donald Trump. She can be loud and a bit of a bully sometimes. For example, here she is screaming at the news media that they are trying to "screw the city."  Also, like Trump, she campaigns and governs in a state of chaos.  She just says things and then just as quickly says the opposite. The audience can take whatever they want from whatever part of what she says and then become excited or outraged according to whatever interpretation they like. It doesn't matter if that's confusing. The news cycle doesn't last long enough to sort stuff out anyway.

But what we can't say about it is that Cantrell "abandoned her principles" with regard to the traffic cameras.  She never applied any discernible principle to the issue to begin with. She just said things and immediately contradicted herself.  Her position never reached a level where it was a credible enough promise for anyone to put any real stock in. You could call it a transparent lie but it's not even that.

Anyway, the cameras are still there. And now they have lowered the threshold for error at which the robots will issue tickets. They say they're doing this because they want to "reduce fatality rates" but nobody believes that either. Or rather nobody is actually meant to believe it unless they want to. And, as it happens, one or two online fanatics seem to have decided they want to. So now everybody is yelling again but not enough people are yelling directly at the mayor. Because if nobody knows what side she's on today, nobody knows what to yell at her about. That's how the chaos works. Is it political genius or is it an accident?  It's the question of the moment in New Orleans and in Washington.

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