Sunday, December 14, 2008

We're More Corrupt! We're More Corrupt!

Than Louisiana, at any rate. Unclear is where Alaska falls on the continuum, but I'm confident that they don't approach it with Illinois's style and dedication to tradition. By god, if a racket works, you stick with it. It's somewhat endearing, if you think about it.

Illinois and Louisiana continue to have different styles of fraud—David Mamet vs. Walker Percy. Illinois' corruption culture tends to be mingy, pedestrian, and shameful. State legislators who sell their votes for $25 cash in an envelope (a scandal of the 1970s) do not tend toward braggadocio. When former House Speaker Dan Rostenkowski was caught filching postage stamps from the House post office, he pled guilty and apologized for his crimes (and was pardoned by Bill Clinton).

Louisiana's culture of corruption, by contrast, is flamboyant and shameless. Earl Long once said that Louisiana voters "don't want good government, they want good entertainment." He spent part of his last term in a mental hospital, where his wife had him committed after he took up with stripper Blaze Starr. When Sen. Allen Ellender died in office in 1972, Gov. Edwards didn't try to auction of his seat. He appointed his wife, Elaine, possibly to get her out of town. When Edwards ran for governor in 1983, he said of the incumbent, "If we don't get Dave Treen out of office, there won't be anything left to steal." (He also memorably said Treen was so slow it took him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.) Raised among figures like these, Louisianans tend to accept corruption as inevitable, to be somewhat proud of it, and to forgive it easily.

And on an absolutely unrelated la vida Laura note, I went to a party yesterday at which I ran into the Worst Date Ever (you all have heard the story of New Year's 2006, which will live on in infamy, or at least as a cautionary tale to earnest single women everywhere). The tragic thing was, I was one unfortunately timed conversation away from making a clean getaway before he showed up. And instead of staying decently and sensibly at the other end of the house, perhaps waving absently ("You look somewhat familiar, maybe we've run across each other? This gesture should cover our social obligations"), or, better still, pretending we'd never met, he insisted on standing right next to me and making awkward chit chat! About my hair. Fun.

No comments: