The Anti-Moratorium Rally Ate Our Oily Souls:
There the Rude Pundit was, in the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, a week ago, in the media section, right in front of the stage, for the Rally for Economic Survival. The rally, sponsored by local businesses, but mostly those that are oil-related, was to send a message via the media that most of Louisiana opposes President Obama's six-month moratorium on new deepwater drilling, as well as the suspension of operations on 33 wells currently being drilled (which is less than 1% of the deepwater wells in the Gulf). Everywhere you went in town, you could see signs telling people to go to the rally. Businesses shut down so their workers could attend, some even providing buses for them to get there. And, indeed, the Cajundome, which has a Justin Bieber concert coming up, was pretty much filled with over 11,000 people.
Behind the Rude Pundit was the staff for the Attorney General of Louisiana. Two seats back was Senator David Vitter, the Republican whose affairs with diaper-changing hookers do not seem to matter to the supposedly good Catholics and evangelicals who vote for him. Oil executives were all around. Walking through the Cajundome, you could identify people by their shirts - who worked for Halliburton, who worked for Shell, who worked for every small oil company, who was there for the local Tea Party. Most were the workers whose jobs could be affected by the halt of drilling, although one suspected that they were acting like it was a blanket moratorium and not one so specifically targeted.
A few observations:
1. Lieutenant Governor Scott Angelle is one of those old school politicians who can whip a crowd into a frenzy. Frankly, he's the guy Republicans should be grooming for the future, not Governor Bobby Jindal. The Rude Pundit's mom, who was his "photographer" for the event, found him absolutely thrilling.
2. Bobby Jindal is one of the goddamned worst speakers. His whiny little speech, which featured him saying that "We don't want a check from BP," climaxed by his lame-ass attempt to get the crowd to chant "Let us go back to work," which he approached with all the enthusiasm of a man forced to go to a John Mayer concert with his girlfriend. The crowd clapped a bit and confusedly tried to chant, but it was aborted before it reached its first trimester.
3. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is not your roly-poly friend anymore. Oh, how we all loved this man of the people when he appeared on our magical Anderson Cooper show, railing about BP's despoiling of his people's land. But now he mocked President Obama and demanded an end to the moratorium on the very drilling that wrecked his parish's marshes and coasts. He's an old oil guy, so he knows where the big money comes from. It ain't shrimp.
4. Speaker after speaker said that this was a "war" that had to be won. The war was with the federal government, which was criticized (to cheers and boos) constantly in a way that BP was not.
5. The Cajundome and rally organizers did not allow people to bring signs, not inside, not in the parking lot. One imagines it was a way to avoid anyone showing up with an Obama/Hitler or witch doctor poster. But there was a barely contained rage towards the President that popped out every now and then when someone would yell, "Stop Obama." Or when oil lobbyist John Hofmeister started to talk about the "three evils" affecting South Louisiana. He was talking about the evils of what he called "misinformation" in various forms, but dozens of people called out "Obama" or "Obama is evil."
6. Yes, there were black people there. Yes, the vast majority of the crowd was white. No, the representation of non-whites was not in proportion to the truly diverse population of the region.
7. No Democratic politician spoke nor was in the audience. Not Senator Mary Landrieu. Not Representative Charlie Melancon. They both oppose the moratorium, too.
The Rude Pundit felt disgusted by the entire thing. Because you know what? They were right. South Louisiana is bought and owned by the oil industry. In the last century, it has raped the Louisiana landscape like a Russian mobster with a new shipment of hot Ukrainian women who thought they were immigrating for modeling jobs. The state is now the oil industry's willing whore, doing anything it can to please Chevron or ExxonMobil because that where the jobs are.
You drive down, for instance, Highway 90 from Lafayette to New Iberia, and you pass the pipe fitters, the heavy tool operators, the boat repair shops, the undersea explorer offices, the truck rental places, business after business after business, every single one of them, every single person in them, every single restaurant nearby, every single motel and hotel that puts up business travelers, all of them serving the oil corporations. And all of those jobs and all of those sales and service payments make up a huge part of the tax base of the state.
So, yeah, even with just 33 rigs down, that's thousands of jobs that are directly affected. And BP ain't gonna pay it all. And it's kind of a joke to get all upset about the ruined marshes when the canals and paths that have been carved out of the Louisiana landscape have shredded the wetlands for decades, with little attention beyond activists who wave their hands uselessly.
We're fucked. That's the conclusion the Rude Pundit reached. We are so very fucked by oil. Because the cost of weaning this nation off it is astronomical. Last month, when Bill Maher said, "Fuck your jobs" in favor of the environment, it was a fine rhetorical flourish, but so, so very naive, in a way he usually is not. But not because he dreams big. Liberals are dreamers. It's what we do.
We are fucked because every job lost is a family we all gotta help. It would cost trillions of dollars to extricate ourselves from the claws of Big Oil. And we are simply no longer a nation that thinks in such ways any more. That's why the Rude Pundit walked out of the rally angry, sad, and despairing. Unless we are willing to sacrifice as a whole, unless we are willing to shift our entire economy to saving the earth and the air, you may as well let 'em drill.