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Democrats must blame selves, not chairman, for losses

In many ways Louisiana never has been a progressive state but the manner in which its voters have grown typically to reject liberal Democrats provides a refreshing exception. This puzzles Democrats to the point they can’t figure what is wrong, as shown by the recent meeting of the party’s state central committee.

I’ll make it simple to understand: Republicans who are credible conservatives who run with credible conservative agendas usually win in a state as a whole and most of its electoral districts because these electorates are themselves moderate to conservative in orientation. That’s why Reps. John Fleming and Bill Cassidy, both solid conservatives who ran on conservative platforms, beat two Democrats who were at best supporters of liberal-to-moderate policies, and why state Republican Treasurer John Kennedy could not beat Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, because he lacked credibility as a conservative given his chameleon-like policy preferences of the recent past.

But to admit this, state Democrats would have to divorce themselves entirely from the liberal national part of the party and there are too many in the party that still cling to that failed ideology to allow that to happen. One such lost party leader is state Rep. Sam Jones, who has called for the head of party Chairman Chris Whittington, blaming him for Fleming’s and Cassidy’s wins.

Actually, Whittington did an extraordinary job to encourage candidates that were as competitive as they were in districts held for 20 years and more by Republicans. Perhaps the only Democrat with the past credentials that could have won in Fleming’s Fourth District was ex-First District Attorney Paul Carmouche. In Cassidy’s Sixth District, short-timer Don Cazayoux (courtesy of a special election to the House) did as good a job as any to cloak his liberalism in moderate clothing. And there was nothing Whittington could do about nine-term Democrat incumbent Bill Jefferson in the Second District, whose alleged malfeasance didn’t deter enough Democrats from giving him the nomination but did turn off enough black voters to hand the win to new Republican Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao.

Instead, Jones seemed to blame Whittington for allowing the postponement of the Fourth’s general election because of natural disasters, which took away the one-time advantage of having Pres.-elect Barack Obama on the top of the ticket – a lawsuit effort which would have failed miserably and tardily in any event. He also blames Whittington for not forcing out of the contest for the Sixth state Rep. Michael Jackson who has run as a Democrat but took the route of an independent for this election, bypassing the general election and possibly siphoning off enough votes from Cazayoux to allow Cassidy to win.

However, what Jones and those who believe as he does can’t seem to understand is they sowed their own seeds of destruction regarding Jackson’s defection. When it comes to elections outside of majority-black districts in Louisiana, black Democrat politicians are second-class citizens in their own party. The white leadership in every informal way discourages them from running for non-majority-black districts because blacks appeal to a more-liberal constituency that cannot possibly provide a victory in a general election. Only when there’s no other white alternative candidate does the party support a black candidate in these situations (such as Don Cravins, Jr. running in the Seventh District; his reward for stepping up when no white candidate would against incumbent and reelected Rep. Charles Boustany was a job on Capitol Hill). Jackson knew this, through his experience running against Cazayoux, and figured he had a better shot going it without the party. (Maybe that job should have been made available to him instead of Cravins as an inducement not to run.)

Other complaints about how Democrat organizations should have done a better job of turnout also misunderstand the fundamental contradictions inherent within Louisiana’s Democrats. That attitude assumes that there electorate was naturally majority Democrat, which it simply is not in Louisiana. Just because a majority in the rest of the nation was taken in by the empty suit the party nominated for the presidency doesn’t mean Louisiana voters are that careless (Obama got 39 percent of the state’s vote).

Louisiana once was a state where liberalism and populism thrived. But given the flawed nature of those beliefs, bitter experience stemming from the misguided policies emanating from that ideology now has convinced a majority of Louisianans that if they have a genuine conservative running against someone who is not, that conservative is the best choice. If state Democrats persist in believing the fiction that is liberalism, they will not win most federal and statewide elections as long as Republicans bring forth real conservatives to run against them, no matter who is party chairman. The fault lies not in the execution, but in the very essence of the party and its beliefs.

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