Voters thinking ideologically explains Landrieu failure
If we seek to understand the political behavior in and political culture in Louisiana, we must interpret correctly what the capstone 2014 elections signal in regards to electoral preferences in the state. Incomplete, if not erroneous, attempts to do so fail to accomplish this.
It’s not that 2014’s results, which will culminate in the dumping of the last statewide elected Democrat likely for some time, represent some kind of sea change. Rather, they stand as marker of the completion of a process that began some decades ago. As previously noted, Louisiana’s political culture has changed significantly in this time period as in-migration brought a competing political culture, educational delivery improved substantially that increased the cognitive capacity of the public as a whole by which to evaluate politics, and informational channels exponentially enlarged, freeing citizens from overreliance on established elites such as politicians, political organizations, and the traditional media for knowledge about politics.
These forces have transformed the political culture into what the instrument that symbolizes that the tipping point has passed, Rep. Bill Cassidy, calls the “post-pork” paradigm of Louisiana politics. To expand on this, that means that a critical mass of voters have formed that place issue evaluation before candidate image and (what actually happened long ago for many people calling themselves Democrats) partisanship. For national contests now, a controlling bloc of Louisiana voters now are enabled to understand policy implications emanating from issues important to their well-being, to know with accuracy candidates’ preferences and actions relative to those issues, and to relate the two.
This discomfits the political left in the state, as for decades with the movement of national Democrats closer and closer to the far left this stretched further and further the bond between the Louisiana public and the party’s candidates. At the same time, the capacity of the state’s electorate to recognize this continued to increase. Only those skilled in obfuscation of the internal contradictions between their party’s (and their) agenda and beliefs of the people, such as Cassidy’s opponent Sen. Mary Landrieu, could continue to get reelected. Eventually, she was their last woman standing.
For the national left cannot survive, much less thrive, in Louisiana. Its agenda of enlarging outsized and oppressive government that looks to spread the wealth before attending to the common welfare, putting on lockdown a free people’s firearms to protect themselves from it and criminals, blaming America for the world’s ills and acting accordingly, stamping prisms of race, sex, and class warfare onto every political issue, wanting households where Heather has two mommies on every corner of residential blocks and on every corner of commercial blocks an abortionist, and using an alarmist, intellectually-impoverished environmentalist agenda as a cudgel against free markets and peoples resonates so exceptionally poorly across the state. So the ilk that buys into most if not all of this of Mary Landrieu, Cedric Richmond, Karen Peterson, John Bel Edwards, Mitch Landrieu, etc. play down that and instead relentlessly try to steer debate away from ideology and towards what once was familiar home turf of what goodies they can capture for the group that is you and me from the man behind the tree.
But the horse now is out of the barn. The majority of Louisianans, certainly when it comes to national politics, now are more apt to consider politics not as government exacting a pound of flesh from them where they hope to maximize the number of ounces they get back, but that it makes more sense to shrink government’s power and privilege by retaining a few more ounces in the first place. They are smart and informed enough now to see the connection between Landrieu’s voting behavior and the misery visited thereof onto a majority of them. They threaten to make Democrats a permanent minority in the state unless the party moves towards the center.
And this dim outlook is not one the left in Louisiana wishes to contemplate, much less to admit. So, for example, we get one of its spokesmen, journalist Jeremy Alford, avoiding that realization by claiming in regards to Cassidy’s impending dethronement of Landrieu that it’s because the election is “nationalized” not “localized.” More precisely, the election “is a referendum on the president [Barack Obama] and Landrieu's ties to him. Which, again, has very little to do with what Landrieu has done for Louisiana over the past 18 years or what Cassidy has done during the previous six.”
Unfortunately, here Alford has rendered himself blind to the obvious: the election has everything to do with what Landrieu and Cassidy have done for Louisiana in their careers. Stating only the most obvious of causes, it was not Cassidy that inflicted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Louisiana, the issue that consistently has topped the polls in importance among issues in this contest, but it was Landrieu, taking her cues from Obama, while Cassidy opposed it. Louisianans according to that polling as a whole detest it, and they know which of the two on it put the knife in their backs. On several other issues over the years, even if passions run less intensely concerning those, the same is true.
This also does not mean that Landrieu will lose because of a “nationalized” focus to the election. She will lose because of ideology; she will lose because her side lost the debate on national issues among Louisianans. That debate now is too important to state voters as a whole to be overridden by who gets what. The Louisiana electorate has matured to where it is not a matter of it paying a lot to government with instructions to its elected officials to get for it what they can get and the devil take others, but that it sees beyond naked self-interest and understands what is good policy for America as a whole is good policy for Louisiana.
As the December Senate runoff will confirm, the populist component in Louisiana’s political culture, which tries to put a human face on liberalism in Louisiana, marches inexorably to irrelevance and with it statewide Democrat chances. You can ignore this fundamental transformation, but you cannot avoid it.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 09:20