Search This Blog


Partisan Legislature bodes ill for Blanco

With the regular legislative session for 2005 now over, some observers have noted that it may qualify has the first truly “partisan” session in a long time. One very obvious reason explains this – Republicans in the Legislature have reached a critical mass.

Over 25 years ago, Louisiana had the smallest proportion of Republicans in its legislature than any other state. A past political culture that allowed some conservative tendencies to flourish in the Democrats and a relatively large black (historically non-Republican) population account for some of this, but the main reason came from the nonpartisan blanket primary system installed over three decades ago. Without being forced to do the impossible by winning a Republican primary against true conservatives, pseudo-conservatives could continue to get elected without shedding the Democrat label.

But national trends favoring Republicans have proven unstoppable even against these defenses and, for the first time in over a century, as a result of the 2003 elections the minority party in Louisiana had better than one-third representation in each chamber. (In fact, today Louisiana’s minority is only the 17th proportionally smallest of all the states in the lower chamber, and 26th for the upper chamber). This became important especially in 2005 because of the fiscal nature of the session (currently, during even-numbered years the Legislature cannot initiate new taxes) allowing for new taxes which requires a two-third’s approval.

In other words, referring to a partisan identity when legislating makes sense only when something may be gained by operating through that lens. If acting as a partisan brought no gains (because there were insufficient numbers to make the promotion of the identity something that could bring benefits), legislators had little incentive to do so.

And research concerning political parties shows that, in an environment of general lacking of party cohesiveness, once one party begins to organize, the other soon follows. Thus, last month, after years of having a Republican Delegation in the Legislature, Democrats have followed suit. Legislative doings will take on an increased partisan tone as a result.

Of course, this constitutes bad news for one person in particular, Gov. Kathleen Blanco. She tries to fob herself off as more conservative than liberal to win votes, but her tax-and-spend ideology belies that image. A vocal Republican minority that, if it sticks together (of which there is no guarantee) stays true to its principles will highlight the fact that Blanco is not what she tries to convey. Such is the lesson her uninformed press secretary Bob Mann needs to learn; Republicans will continue to try to thwart Blanco not because they are partisan and she supposedly is not, but because she is wrong on the issues.

No comments: