Who the Fuck Is Buddy Roemer?:
When The Daily Show featured an interview with Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, you can be sure that a whole bunch of people looked up from their bongs and said, “Who the fuck is this guy?” Who the fuck that guy is happens to be one of the sad, tragic tales of late 20th century American politics (but do not pity the man for, indeed, he is very rich).
Buddy Roemer was a Democrat who was elected governor of Louisiana in 1987 after being a four-term member of Congress, getting 33% in an open primary, beating the blatantly corrupt former governor Edwin Edwards by 5 points. There should have been a runoff, but because he wanted to dick over Roemer (and was going to lose), Edwards conceded before the election, and Roemer became governor. Now, anyone will tell you, Louisiana politics in the 1980s (and early 1990s) was just fucking weird, filled with good ol' boy Huey Long wannabe Democrats (in both man o’ the people cred and/or graft-receiving whoredom) and moderate Republicans (who knew they had to appeal to the majority Democrats to have any chance), all covered in a sauce of Catholic morality, infused with Southern Baptist bible-thumpin’ spice. And fried in oil. Always oil. Roemer was not supposed to win. Edwards and/or one of the very cronies that he had supported and was running should have.
So Roemer gets to Baton Rouge, and, because he’s the anti-Edwards, he wants to be fiscally responsible and not batshit crazy on Moral Majority issues. He came into a state with a $1.3 billion deficit. He pissed off the Edwards Democrats, who were desperately afraid of losing their gravy train, he pissed off his own supporters by bravely vetoing an anti-abortion bill that would have outlawed it in cases of rape and incest, he pissed off everyone in the state by proposing tax hikes so that Louisiana would not be so beholden to the massive fluctuations in oil prices (the proposal went to voters, who rejected it in 1989, thus making him a lame duck nearly immediately in his term) and by opposing a lottery, which he saw as a tax on the poor. Basically, by trying to be honorable and trying to solve problems and doing it as an outsider and renegade Roemer ended up alienating just about everyone you could think of.
And then he switched parties. Yeah, enticed by entreaties from the administration of Bush I, and believing, as so many did post-Persian Gulf “war,” that Republicans were going to cruise to victories in 1992, and fearful that his own chances of even getting the Democratic nomination were slim to none, Roemer jumped to the GOP, thus pissing off all but a few die-hard followers. And he assured that the 1991 gubernatorial race would be a runoff between the vile Edwards and viler KKK grand wizard David Duke. Oh, and the Louisiana Republican Party dicked him over, too.
He isn’t an idiot, Roemer. Sure, sure, you could make a case that his improbable victory from last place to the governor’s mansion could happen again. And he is, after all, just a politician, a Republican one, who wants to overhaul Medicare, among other conservative positions. But he’s got one thing over every other Republican running, except for the mad Ron Paul: he thinks that accepting tons of corporate cash corrupts a candidate. And he wants to talk about that. But the GOP is not letting him into the debates, where he might make a headline or get a cheer or two for his ideas.
Yeah, he was a governor twenty years ago, but he was a governor. He’s got as much executive experience as and more elected position experience (and more business experience) than Mitt Romney. Shit, they let Rick Santorum debate, and he's got as much a chance of getting elected as, well, Rick Santorum. (We’ll give Republicans a pass on letting Herman Cain debate. Excluding the right-wing black guy would just look...unseemly.)
Or maybe we should look at Buddy Roemer as a cautionary tale. See, Roemer came to office promising to change the way the filthy, broke Louisiana government worked. But, for the people in the state, old habits die hard. And for the Edwards machine, and everyone who profited from it, there was no way they were going to let him enact policies that might make the big ride on the oil dime end. In the end, he limped away from the governorship. He tried one more time, in 1995, to run for governor, but he was outflanked on the right by a conservative who preached the social issues that Roemer just didn't give a shit about.
But imagine, for a moment, not that he's president, but just that he's allowed to debate, that he's treated like a former elected official, with more right to be there than half the people on the stage, that Republicans believed in dignity and decorum. Imagine that he brings up how he refuses to take PAC money and will not take any donations more than $100. Imagine how Mitt Romney would have to answer that. Or Rick Perry. Or Michele Bachmann. Like so many of Roemer's crusades, though, it will end in failure. He wanted to save Louisiana from itself. He couldn't. He wants to save the nation from the corruption of money. He won't. He's just an almost honorable man among a pride of motherfuckers.
Instead, the Republicans will just continue on, wondering whether to vote crazy or craven.