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Coming Cazayoux defeat illustrates Democrats' dillemma

Hopefully, Rep. Don Cazayoux took out some short-term leases on housing, furniture etc. in Washington upon his arrival courtesy of winning a special election in May, because when qualifying closed for November’s federal elections, his future prospects to retain his office became very dim.

Although he did not draw a Democrat opponent in the primary election to be contested on Sep. 6, that turned out to be a problem. Not only did a tough general election opponent go unopposed in the Republican primary, state Sen. Bill Cassidy, but a potential strong candidate for the Democrat nomination, state Rep. Michael Jackson who he held off with difficulty for the nomination for the special election, skipped it in order to run as an independent against Cazayoux and Cassidy in the general election.

State Democrats may cry foul but Jackson was acting in a way to maximize his chances for election and in a sense the state party only has itself to blame. When looking at only Democrat registrations, given current trends by September with a small black majority among Democrats in the district but slightly higher turnout and cross-racial voting habits of white over blacks, a Cazayoux-Jackson race would have been a close.

But Democrats allow independents to vote in their party primaries and, with whites largely voting for whites and blacks overwhelmingly for blacks in a one black, one white candidate setup, the fact that a healthy majority of independents are white probably would tip the nomination in Cazayoux’s favor. By contrast, if Jackson could split the white vote in a three-way contest including Cassidy, he might get the win – and would be more likely to do so than in a contest solely against Cassidy given blacks as a whole in the district comprise less than 30 percent.

However, Jackson’s chance is not great because of Cassidy. Being one of the most conservative members of the Louisiana Senate, most conservative voters will abandon Cazayoux, who tries to use a few conservative votes here and there to mask his general liberal record, for the genuine article in Cassidy, while most black voters will desert Cazayoux for an unapologetic and black liberal in Jackson. Had a less-conservative and/or more controversial candidate (an example of the latter being the erstwhile special election GOP nominee Louis “Woody” Jenkins) gotten the Republican nomination, Cazayoux might have had a chance to hang onto to more of these conservative votes and had a slim chance to prevail. However, Cassidy’s quality makes it not only virtually impossible that Cazayoux can win, but that it will take significasnt luck for him to win – Cassidy will just draw too many Republican and/or conservative votes.

So Democrats must blame themselves for being unable to consolidate their hold on the office in part because of the decision to allow in independents. This can be seen in the black community as an attempt to keep out black nominees which it suspects the party wants to do because party (mostly white) leaders sees white nominees as more electable. So this spawns independent black candidates with considerable black support because white Democrats don’t understand their goal is not so much to elect Democrats who may not sympathize much with black leaders’ agendas, but to elect blacks to office.

It is the modern dilemma of the Democrats, a party built around coalitions of varying unelectable ideologies united only by the desire to win power: only if the acquisition of power seems possible do they hang together. The likely Cassidy win forthcoming illustrates the appropriate roadmap for Republicans to follow in the majority of the country: nominate solid conservatives as conservatism beats liberalism in the marketplace of ideas, and thereby negate Democrat strategies to compensate for their own internal contradictions.

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