Stop the presses! Buddy Roemer is no longer running for president.
If Mr. Roemer's name doesn't ring a bell, don't feel bad. Although he has been campaigning doggedly for a year and a half, most Americans surely have never heard his name. Mr. Roemer, a former governor of Louisiana, has the distinction — a dubious one, to be sure — of failing miserably to gain the 2012 presidential nomination of not one but two distinct political entities: the Republican Party and the nonpartisan group Americans Elect. The Republicans, of course, have chosen Mitt Romney, who with his victory in Texas this week attained the number of delegates required to clinch the nomination this summer in Tampa, Fla. As for Americans Elect, that fledgling movement never got the traction to support its high-minded principles; in the end, it failed to choose any nominee at all.
Although I never met Mr. Roemer, he was briefly my governor when I lived in Louisiana some two decades ago. And as the editor of a small daily newspaper in that state, he very much affected my life.
Political junkies will remember the notorious 1991 race for governor of Louisiana between former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and the charming but thoroughly corrupt old-time politician, Edwin Edwards. What few recall is that we had Buddy Roemer to thank for that contest between — to put it very nicely — two less-than-appealing alternatives. That's because Mr. Roemer, an incumbent running for re-election, managed to make himself so unpopular during his single term in office that he wound up coming in third, behind Messrs. Duke and Edwards, in the state's open primary.
Mr. Roemer was, arguably, an effective, reform-minded governor — perhaps too much so for Louisiana at that time. He favored environmental protection, better pay for teachers, and improved campaign finance laws. But he and his aides had a habit of alienating members of the state legislature. He took a moderate line on abortion in a decidedly less-than-moderate social environment.
And he was, frankly, a little weird. He hired an adviser to teach "positive thinking" to his staff. One of the methods involved rubber bands, which staff members were to snap when they had negative thoughts. That might have gone over in Gov. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown's California; not so much in Bayou Country.
So Buddy Roemer lost his primary, and Louisiana got a choice between a proud racist and an unreconstructed (although to that point in time, unconvicted) con man. I was editor of a newspaper in Northeast Louisiana at that time, and it still pains me how many perfectly lovely, friendly, outgoing people I knew were willing to support someone like David Duke. (One woman who worked at the paper had an 8-by-10 glossy of the ex-Klan leader tacked to the wall of her workstation.) Meanwhile, my in-laws in New Orleans and their friends drove around town sporting bumper stickers saying: "Vote for the crook — it's important."
Eddie Edwards won that race, and later went to prison, and everyone forgot about Buddy Roemer until about 17 months ago. He didn't make a big impact in 1991, and he didn't do much better this time around. God love him for trying, though.
--Michael Cross-BarnetCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times