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LA GOP rightly censures group devaluing party ID

Internecine war to a degree broke out at the latest meeting of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee meeting. The question is whether the conflict helped or hindered the party’s chance at propagating its ideas.

Last year, a groups of GOP registrants but which has no formal affiliation with the party from New Orleans, the Greater New Orleans Republicans, had voted as a group to endorse state Sen. Edwin Murray’s bid to be the city’s next mayor. The problem was, Murray was a Democrat in a contest which had multiple Republican candidates, one of which, businessman Rob Couhig, had run respectably in 2006 gaining a double-digit share of the votes in a fragmented field.

This brought expressions of disapproval from the Committee, which meets quarterly to make broad governance decisions about the state party. It passed a resolution specifically censuring the group and generally calling on any state organization of Republicans to refrain from endorsements of non-Republicans when a GOP candidate was in a race. Mike Bayham, a Committee member who also is a member of the group, explained a majority of the group felt Couhig could not win. Ryan Booth, another Committee member, said he could understand the move as Murray was the best available candidate to defeat Democrat Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu “and the Democratic machine.” (Although the resolutions carry no enforcement, embarrassment on the group was increased when Murray subsequently dropped out of contest.)

But one wonders where Booth has been from the past several decades as political machines have come and gone in New Orleans no matter who was mayor. They’ve all had one thing in common – they’ve been of the Democrats, so what difference does it make which Democrat ends up leading whichever faction can gain ascendancy in the coming months as a result of this election?

And he and the group didn’t seem to understand that Murray would appear to have little to do with their presumed agendas – in the past five years as measured by my legislative scorecard at the Louisiana Legislature Log, on a scale where low scores represent extreme liberalism/populism, Murray has scored 42, 37, 35, 25, and (most recently), 5. In 2006 you might have been able to argue Murray wasn’t too far off being moderate, perhaps even more than Landrieu, but not now.

Bayham argued the specific mention of the group was a move of damaging inter-party strife that should be avoided. But that smacks more of acquiescence than understanding the purpose of a political party. To use the definition I give my American Government students, a political party seeks to organize and operate government for the purposes of making public policy by supplying candidates for offices with a label. That does mean if you are a group that deliberately adopts a party label in its name, you should be in the business of supporting candidates using that label or at least not supporting others with a different one when one or more of your own runs.

No, a Republican has little chance of winning citywide Feb. 6 or in any runoff. Yet to write off completely support of one of your own damages the very label and thereby the causes associated with it that those choosing to do so say they value. Like any attitude, party identification and thus the strong correlation it has with subsequent behavior like voting for the party’s candidates erodes when it is devalued by deliberately setting it aside in these situations, And the more often that is done, the chances of that party’s candidates winning become even longer as fewer people stay enthusiastic about the party’s candidates and attitudes become more complacent in accepting an agenda further and further from what was once believed. Such an environment, for example, would have made the election of the area’s Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao – himself a recent GOP convert that likely could not have won otherwise –impossible.

The state party entirely was correct to word the censure motion as it did and pass it. If this group’s majority feels this way which is more indicative of an interest group than of an organization claiming affiliation with a political party, it either should change its name or change its behavior. Otherwise, its disingenuousness will cause it to lose credibility among those in the area truly interested in wanting to offer a choice, not an echo, to the Democrats which is the only way the Republicans have a chance to succeed.

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