While fissures appear to be forming within the GOP, Republicans and Democrats alike are already looking to potential presidential candidates for the next election. Top 2020 contenders include expected names like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden, along with another that is less well-known in D.C. circles — Mitch Landrieu.
Landrieu’s name has been dropped twice recently in discussion of future DNC candidates. In late April, The New York Times mentioned Landrieu as a possible candidate for the 2020 presidential election, while an early May CNN piece name-dropped the mayor as one of 22 Democrats thinking about submitting their name as a nominee.
Rumors have abounded in the Crescent City that the removal of the Confederate monuments during the last stretch of his mayoral term was an intentional and politically advantageous move for Landrieu. Considering the widespread reaction to the removal of the Confederates monuments, which divided New Orleanians and many other Southerners between camps of extreme negative backlash and joyous celebration, it is hard to believe that Mr. Landrieu isn’t setting his sights towards D.C.
If the mayor decides to expand the Landrieu family's political presence to the White House, would his actions during his time leading New Orleans hold up?
Residents of the Big Easy have criticized his purported mishandling of the city’s rising crime rates, particularly against his long-championed $40 million security plan for the French Quarter. This dichotomy has sparked an age-old discussion between the protection of the vital tourism industry in the city versus addressing the crime, infrastructure, and other social issues plaguing full-time residents.
Still, Mayor Landrieu has been New Orleans' most adamant supporter in an uncertain political climate. He has been vocal in his opposition to the decisions made by the Trump administration, criticizing Jeff Sessions' threats against sanctuary cities to warning that the federal budget cuts will be "devastating" to his hometown.
With recent history in mind, if Landrieu is using his final mayoral term to position himself in the pool of possible POTUS candidates for the 2020 election, could the results be similar to Jindal’s handling of the state economy when he was ramping up for his failed presidential bid? Jindal’s infamous tenure as governor decimated the state budget, leaving Louisiana without the much needed funding for education, infrastructure, and you guessed it — law enforcement.
Many commentators cite the 2020 election as a pivotal moment for both parties to introduce a new generation of political figures to the national arena. The three most-cited potential candidates for the 2020 Democratic nominee — Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden — are over 70 years of age, and each have expressed an interest in shifting the nation towards democratic populism. (For anyone Still With Her, Hillary Clinton told The New York Times in a candid interview with Nick Kristof, quite directly, that she expressed no interest in running for 2020, preferring to continue to pursue the subject that originally sparked her interest in politics — feminism).
While Warren and Sanders are already booked with busy speaking schedules, and Biden he become something of a social media celebrity as his affable personality effortlessly connects with young voters, a number of younger candidates such as Landrieu, Corey Booker of New Jersey, Kristin E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Kamala Harris of California are gaining presidential clout as well. Trump's platform centers on economic populism, and that, coupled with the fact that his approval ratings are farcically low, may mean that these newer, younger candidates hold the fate of our nation’s future in their hands.
For 56-year-old Landrieu, the removal of the Confederate monuments, something that many New Orleanians and Americans alike thought long overdue, may promulgate him to the top of this batch of younger candidates. On Friday (5.19), Landrieu gave a pointed and eloquent speech justifying the removal of the Confederate monuments that is being hailed by many of the nation’s most prominent media agencies (such as The New York Times, Slate, Vox, The Washington Post) as a compelling address to an decision that will likely shape New Orleans history and future for generations to come. He even had to answer his crowd jokingly afterwards, “Guys, I’m not running [for president].”
If Landrieu does decide to run for POTUS, critics and supporters alike can parse whether his tenure as New Orleans mayor would back him up. New Orleans is a city with a lot of political baggage, and it is probably difficult for residents to picture their current mayor running for presidential office while their former mayor is currently incarcerated. The city's politics have always been rife with scandals, and although he comes from a prominent political dynasty, Landrieu will have to really cover his bases if he plans to run in 2020.
In broad terms, during Landrieu’s tenure as mayor, crime in New Orleans has increased and communities have not become markedly safer. To be fair, the roughly 40,000 new residents that have entered the city since the beginning of Landrieu’s tenure may offset the increase in crime. Additionally, city residents themselves voted against a budget increase in 2015, citing the fact that the NOPD actually became less productive the last time the received a budget increase. This budget freeze occurred at the same time that the NOPD was (and still is) facing challenges in fulfilling its recruitment quotas.
In an effort to combat this, Landrieu and the NOPD managed to make the NOPD more effective by actually cutting arrests by 44% between 2013 and 2016, focusing more largely upon felonies and violent crimes. Landrieu’s $40 million security proposal is focused largely upon the French Quarter. Residents are concerned that this security plan is designed to increase tourism, and not to preserve their safety. The question is really whether Landrieu and his newly appointed police chief, Michael S. Harrison, have adequately reformed the NOPD so residents will actually benefit from a budget increase associated with the $40 million security plan. Although the NOPD has become more effective despite the department's limited resources, with a budget increase residents may expect to see the NOPD address more minor infractions such as DUIs and petty theft as opposed to concentrating solely on major felony offenses.
Despite political leanings, New Orleanians should be proud of Landrieu’s speech following the final monument take down, as he looked ahead to the promising future of the city and its community. In less than a decade, New Orleans has gone from having a mayor who ended his term with incarceration to one born and raised in a local political dynasty, now heralded across the country for restoring eloquence and justice in U.S. politics.
Regardless of the mayor's next steps or who will take his place after the fall elections, residents should demand that the institutions that comprise social justice such as safe and drug-free communities, equitable and accessible schools, and clean spaces are not forgotten. If Landrieu decides to run for POTUS, Republicans will rake him across the coals for the messy city he inherited when he took office in 2010. Although his speech Friday looked forward to the future, it’s debatable whether his tenure of mayor has paved his road to the White House.