Oct. 9, 2015 01:42 PM

Words of caution for Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne in his uphill battle to be Louisiana’s next governor: Sen. David Vitter has already cornered the market on bigots, racists and low-information voters. Get back on the high ground, sir.

Dardenne, a Baton Rouge Republican, had run a clean, upbeat campaign in his bid for governor, rolling out folksy and decidedly positive TV ads that had a “Morning in America” feel to them. But his latest ad promising to drug test beneficiaries of welfare and unemployment insurance is the political equivalent of tossing raw meat to the most ravenous, base voters.

Drug testing welfare recipients has become an increasingly popular political gimmick in red-state America, but the results of drug testing recipients of food stamps shows that drug use among that population is much, much lower than the general populace based on how few welfare recipients actually test positive for drugs.

According to Think Progress — take that for what you will — Missouri spent more than $336,000 to drug test nearly 39,000 welfare applicants, of whom 48 tested positive for drugs. That comes to $7,000 per positive result. Utah spent $65,000 to test 9,500 applicants and busted 29, or $2,200 per positive result. And on and on. The evidence shows that welfare recipients, overwhelmingly single mothers and their dependent children, are not druggies. But they are poor, they’re often black and they’re easy to stigmatize as “welfare queens” living luxurious lifestyles on the public dime — a ready pariah for working-class white voters who’ve been hoodwinked into voting against their own economic interests.

Consider it from a more mainstream vantage point, Time Magazine, which in an August editorial titled “Why Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Is a Waste of Taxpayer Money” wrote:

The testing is meant to assure taxpayers their money isn’t being “wasted” on the less desirable, those who would somehow manage to buy drugs with the assistance. But in Tennessee, where drug testing was enacted for welfare recipients last month, only one person in the 800 who applied for help tested positive. In Florida, during the four months the state tested for drug use, only 2.6% of applicants tested positive. Meanwhile, Florida has an illegal drug use rate of 8%, meaning far fewer people on services are using drugs than their better-off counterparts. The drug testing cost taxpayers more money than it saved, and was ruled unconstitutional last year.

As (Lake Charles) American Press columnist Jim Beam opined on Thursday in his endorsement of the lieutenant governor, “Dardenne isn’t a back-slapper or a political grandstander, but he has demonstrated executive ability in his two statewide elected positions. It is the kind of competence, experience and leadership that Louisiana desperately needs at one of the most challenging times in our state’s history.”

So what’s with this sudden turn by Dardenne? Beam may have revealed it in yesterday’s column:

Roger Villere, the current chairman [of the Louisiana Republican Party], explained why Dardenne hasn’t always been a party favorite.

“He might not be as conservative as some of the conservative wing wants,” Villere said. “He is more to the center right than the far right of the party.”

We like you better when you’re closer to the center, Mr. Dardenne.

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