In 1991, my old Ford Futura had a "Vote for the Crook, It's Important" bumpersticker on it, signifying support for the corrupt and contemptible Edwin Edwards' candidacy for governor of Louisiana. This was a bit odd since I was a registered voter in Mississippi, not Louisiana, and since I had (and have) nothing but disdain for Edwards. Still, he was running against former Klansman and American Nazi Party sympathizer David Duke, and it was a real contest. Things have changed.
Last night, post-Katrina Louisiana signaled that the state has turned a corner to a post-Duke, post-Edwards era with the election of the nation's first Indian-American governor, Bobby Jindal. The election of Jindal, a conservative pro-life Republican who will also now be the nation's youngest governor, was a cakewalk at the polls but not on the campaign trail. The Louisiana Democratic Party insisted on referring to Jindal as "Piyush," using his given Indian first name rather than his preferred "Bobby" (which he chose from watching The Brady Bunch).
When the veiled references to a former Hindu sitting in Huey Long's chair produced nothing but yawns from the voters, Jindal's opponents turned to his Roman Catholicism. Citing Catholic apologetics articles Jindal has written for the New Oxford Review, advertisements run in heavily Baptist northern Louisiana deemed Jindal "insulting" to "Louisiana's Protestants." Baptists and Pentecostals, though, stood by Jindal.
Louisiana is just one state and, I'll be the first to admit, not representative of the rest of the nation. But Louisiana just elected the son of Indian immigrants who looks like he's twelve years-old on an ethics reform platform. They turned aside race-baiting and old Catholic-Protestant rivalries in the process. And they didn't even have to elect a crook to do it.