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With departure, LA Democrats can put up or shut up

After attempts public and private to boot him out of office, it appears that the chairman of Louisiana’s Democrats Chris Whittington apparently is leaving the post on his own accord, departing with a mixed legacy.

On the one hand, the tide of conservatism that belatedly has turned the South Republican at last hit Louisiana and caused major retrenchment of Democrats. Out of seven statewide elected offices, seven U.S. House seats, and the pair of Senators, only three of these spots are held by Democrats, one in each category, compared to the 10 when he assumed command of the party from the hapless Jim Bernhard. Democrats also during his term lost their effective majority in the state House although giving up only a little ground in the state’s Senate. One could blame the party leader for these reversals.

On the other hand, it must be noted that perhaps the weakest state political parties, institutionally speaking, in the country are Louisiana’s, in part because of a political culture that has placed so must emphasis on candidates/personalities, and in part because of a political system whose blanket primary system for state and local offices discourages identification with and disempowers parties. And of the two major parties, because registration tides have run against them to instill further resource erosion, as an organization the Democrats are the institutionally weaker.

This has caused problems precisely because it allows Democrats to be a fractious lot. While some uninformed or self-deceived true believers remain, the bankruptcy of liberal ideology leaves only the pursuit of power as an idea to hold various wings together, so when certain parts feel left out in the acquisition of that power, there is little that can be done utilizing party resources to hold it together to compete maximally. Perhaps the best example of this during Whittington’s reign was when white liberal-in-conservative’s clothing former Rep. Don Cazayoux possibly was prevented from extending his six months in office by black unapologetic liberal state Rep. Michael Jackson running as an independent.

However, given the tension underlying the party between the liberals who would cause the party statewide electoral disaster with their unabashed pursuit of that agenda electorally and those who think the party can maximize its chances by deceiving the electorate into thinking they are supporting quasi-conservative candidates under the Democrat label, perhaps this is the best Whittington could do. Maybe only he knows how many other ruptures did not occur because the party stepped in and kept the peace.

While there are several states that have proportionally fewer Democrats in state offices, probably no state party has for now such a strong electoral current running against it in terms of progress relative to Republicans. The frustrations that will ensue will make many think this as a futile, enervating job.

But the time may be at hand for an appointment of historic proportions. With almost as many blacks as whites registered as Democrats and considering the party’s flagging fortunes, would not the appointment of a black leader allow the party to back its specious claim (argued to some degree against by Jackson as a reason he said he would run as an independent) that it truly pursues interests of the black community? Potentially this could invigorate the party and likely the only thing that can if it refuses to move towards the political center. But this would require longstanding entrenched interests in the party to give up power.

Thus, despite the relative unattractiveness of the job, look for an interesting succession process that will tell us what Louisiana Democrats really are all about and just how credible the party is for all its protestations of inclusiveness.

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