Danae Columbus: Think the partisan gridlock in Baton Rouge is bad? Try Washington, D.C.

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Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Who among us isn’t frustrated by the time and money wasted because the Louisiana Legislature cannot pass a balanced budget? Though we might be infuriated, we only have to look toward Washington to see much worse. Today House Republicans will grapple with immigration reform in an attempt to come to agreement on at least some of the policies that have divided the Republican Party and the nation for several years now.

Because immigration issues are divisive even amongst GOP faithfuls, House Republican leaders have yet to please the party’s moderates or the Freedom Caucus — two groups whose agenda and goals are very different. At stake is the proposed pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients as well as visa limits and border security. There is consensus among many Republicans that DACA recipients deserve temporary legal status. Within the GOP the question remains whether recipients should get automatic permanent legal status or must apply through normal channels. Democrats are firmly united on automatic permanent legal status. It’s still unclear whether President Trump would support any new law that gave DACA recipients a secure pathway. All this maneuvering might just be a ploy to gain support from moderate Democrats and Republicans in advance of the midterm elections.

The New York Times reports that Senate Republicans are more confident that they will continue to stay in power because of President Trump’s growing approval ratings and general economic and job growth. Though President Trump’s disapproval rating is higher that his approval rating (according to pollster Ron Faucheux), President Trump’s overall ratings have grown this year. The U.S. economy has improved at a steady pace and the jobless rate is now at a 17-year low, according to the Wall Street Journal. Unemployment is currently at levels not seen since December 2000. Stock prices continue to climb. Although Louisiana still performs way below par in terms of job growth, new jobs are readily available nationally in manufacturing, health care and accounting.

With these significant benchmarks and a little luck, Republicans appear to be holding their own in recent races in West Virginia, North Dakota, and Florida. Control of the House is being played out nationally in primarily coastal suburban districts where highly educated voters strongly display anti-Trump sentiment. Many of the competitive Senate races are taking place in states Trump carried by double digits including Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Democrats are still confident they will win the Senate seats needed in part because President Trump continues to be a polarizing presence, especially for America’s growing minority population. In a February, 2018 Associated Press- NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey, 57% of all voters surveyed voiced their belief that President Trump is a racist. Only 24% believed that the things President Trump is doing is good for African Americans followed by only good for 19% of Hispanics and 15% of Muslims.

As Democratic candidates of all ethnicities start to articulate more pocketbook issues, swing voters in America’s heartland could reevaluate their support of President Trump and the members of Congress aligned with him.

Meanwhile back in Louisiana, the Legislature will go into special session once again to pass a new budget before June 30. Good thing our legislative elections don’t coincide with the midterms. No one would get re-elected!


Many Louisiana women who believe in a woman’s right to choose were disappointed last week when Governor John Bel Edwards signed a new law banning abortions after 15 weeks. The law will only take effect if a federal court upholds a similar law in Mississippi. The governor has every right to oppose abortion. It is unfortunate that his personal views will impact thousands of Louisiana’s young women – especially poor women of color. Abortions have been prohibited in Ireland since 1861. Feminists recently passed a referendum which will change that, though some restrictions will still apply.


New Orleans will host a series of gay pride events this week that will draw thousands of celebrants for parades, concerts, lectures and overall good times. In today’s era of same sex marriage, gender reassignment surgery, and LGBT elected officials, it’s easy to forget that less than 50 years ago members of this community were considered criminals who should be deported rather than law abiding citizens who should be protected. Bashing homosexuals was considered good clean fun by many college fraternity members. Local ordinances made it unlawful to rent or sell homes to “sex perverts.” Raids and arrests were everyday occurrences. Gay Mardi Gras took place mostly behind closed doors and was considered too controversial to be covered by the mainstream media including New Orleans Magazine which turned down a story submitted by this writer in 1977.

Author Robert Fieseler just published a new book, Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, about the June 24, 1973 fire at the Up Stairs Lounge, a gay meeting place in the French Quarter where 32 people lost their lives due to an act of arson that was never fully investigated. It was the largest mass killing of gay people in the U.S. until the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. With the building’s fire exits blocked, no one was able to escape the arsonist’s fury.

The gay rights movement began in 1969 with the Stonewall Inn Rebellion in New York City. Fieseler attempts to tie the Up Stairs Lounge fire to other horrific moments in civil rights history including the September, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama where four young African-American girls were killed when a pipe bomb placed by white extremists exploded under the church steps.

Although LGBT rights have come full circle, it is still important to remember what happened that June day so that it never happens again.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-elect Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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