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Issues spur, blanket primary retards, party switching

Yes, it is a milestone that registered Democrats in Louisiana no longer comprise a majority of registered voters, and that blacks now comprise a plurality of registered Democrats. But, from published comments about these phenomena (predicted in this space months ago), there appears to be little accurate understanding about why this has happened.

One of my colleagues, and reported also “several political observers,” asserted that the presence of the blanket primary (incorrectly termed an “open” primary in the report) what was helped bring about this state of affairs. In fact, more than anything the ability for voters in a first election to cast ballot for candidate where all run together in all state and local and most federal contests form almost four decades has blunted the conversion of Democrats because the system does not penalize voters registered as Democrats from having influence with Republican partisan decisions.

The most important decision a party can make, and the greatest place where registrants can influence a party’s fortunes, is in selection of a party’s nominees to offices.
In closed primary systems, only party affiliates may vote in that party’s primary (and perhaps no-party individuals if the party assents, courts have ruled). This means an individual must pledge at least some minor fealty to a party, such as by registering as such a voter, in order to have influence in these decisions. Voting behavior research also indicates that the more often a voter is placed in situation where he must think about party, as in a closed primary, the more loyalty typically is generated to the party’s candidates reflected in increased levels of voting for them in general elections.

But with the blanket primary, no incentive exists to conceptualize politics in terms of party because there is no such thing as a party primary. In addition, in essence it allows non-party members to decide outcomes when more than one of a party’s candidate runs, trying to secure an outright win or make it into the general election runoff. Therefore, with no penalty involved by not registering with a party for whose candidates one may vote for with regularity, because the blanket primary allows anybody of any registration to vote for those candidates in the so-called “primary,” there’s no imperative to register with a party in order to have the privilege of selecting a nominee, and thus acculturating a voter into attitudinally accepting himself as a party member, meaning they become less likely to voluntarily switch registrations.

This retards Democrats from switching; institute a closed primary, and there would be a significant movement over time into the Republican Party of Democrats accustomed for years, even decades, of voting for Republicans but without switching now unable to do so in primaries and would switch to be able to continue to do so. Without the blanket primary, these significant events would have happened many years ago.

Even more mistaken was the musings of a colleague who claimed part of the deteriorating Democrat situation, which mainly involves whites leave the party in droves while black registrants of the party continue at a growing clip not much less than the black population’s growth in the state. Without a shred of evidence, he conjectured it was “underlying racial” as a reaction against the presidency of Democrat, and black, Pres. Barack Obama.

In fact, my article published in 2005 in the academic journal The Forum, in response to an unsophisticated piece that argued racial, anti-black sentiments cost now-Gov. Bobby Jindal election four years earlier than he eventually achieved, demonstrated racial prejudice had little to do with voting decisions in that contest. Rather, social issues and ideology played a much bigger role. While it is fantasy of the political left to blame increasing hostility towards its agenda as a product of whites prejudiced against a president who identifies himself as black, in truth it is because some voters, typically more attentive than others, have become more aware of the divergence between their policy preferences and those being pursued by the White House.

It’s really very simple: as Obama and Democrats have governed harder to the left than any political party in American history, it has become increasingly obvious that their agenda is not one supported by a majority of Americans. Add to that the mounting policy failures produced by this agenda, and more Americans reject that party’s candidates and the label that goes along with them. Blaming this on racial prejudice is a willing misjudgment born of an inability to understand and/or admit that the Democrats’ liberalism is being defeated in the marketplace of ideas.

Differing issue preferences and ideological thinking continue to drive whites away from Democrats in Louisiana, even as the registration changes, ameliorated by the presence of the blanket primary, have lagged to make partisan changes in the electorate less noticeable than they have happened behaviorally.

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