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Lack of Democrat self-awareness dooms their fortunes

Some obviously get it; others don’t. As activist Louisiana Democrats fall into the latter category, that only serves to reinforce the prediction made recently in this space.

The inevitable postmortems of the collapse of their state party as a result of the blowout GOP wins by all kinds of its candidates over all kinds of theirs came out about the same time as the syndicated version of this space produced its version. Some of the more thoughtful observers, such as national political newsletter writer Stuart Rothenberg who noted increasingly partisan politics based upon ideological differentiation explained Rep. Bill Cassidy’s swamping of Sen. Mary Landrieu in her futile reelection attempt, and my professional colleagues who understand that issue preferences are driving more than ever voting behavior in the south and their differenences between parties have become starker as national Democrats continue to champion ideology at odds with the majority in Louisiana and a vast majority of its whites, creating a dilemma for the party’s success.

But the problem facing Democrats is that if these voices are listened to among the party’s supporters, activists, and leaders, then they are being disregarded. Some merely misread the environment, such as state political newsletter writer Jeremy Alford. He explains the Landrieu blowout ultimately came because “the GOP pushed emotion, not necessarily a candidate.” In reality, for many voters in that contest emotion had less to do with their decision and issues more, much more than perhaps ever for a U.S. Senate contest in the state.

For the past Democrat strategy relied strongly on emotion, on the ability of their candidates to obscure their ideology by inoculating themselves through expressing very select few preferences that, unlike the large majority of theirs, agreed with voters and dodging the rest that didn't, by emphasizing how many resources they had transferred to their constituents, and by turning on the charm by making themselves appear chummy and empathetic. Emotional voting, on the basis of what goodies candidates are believed to be able to provide and on how much they can rile you up to like them and dislike those they identify as enemies out to get you, was at a nadir in this election as people more strongly than ever responded to issue preferences. More than ever were able and willing to vote in their own best interests: they got more information than ever on the candidates and used that to compare the candidates’ issue preferences with theirs. With the majority conservatives in the electorate better than ever able to match Cassidy’s conservative preferences to their own, proportionally more voted for him, and produced Landrieu’s drubbing. Ideology, not emotion, was pushed by the GOP and that was what won the contest.

Especially troubling for Democrats should be that as the party labels serve as efficient shorthand for ideology, and as their label is seen as the repository of a liberal national party agenda, it’s axiomatic that until the state party can distance itself from that labelling, it becomes a permanent minority. Instead, not displaying mere confusion like Alford's about cause and effect regarding the Senate election, some party activists apparently drew a completely erroneous, wishful conclusion.

Look no further than state party chairwoman Karen Carter Peterson, who thinks the problem is in the stars and not themselves, and joins in the refusal to open their minds to the fact that it’s their ideology in adhering to the far left agenda of the national party so rejected by the state’s majority of voters that has put them into their reduced condition. Instead, she blames for the party’s rout out of state relevance mysterious, conspiratorial forces using a command of facts and display of logic that would make a preschooler proud. The voice of reasonableness among Louisiana’s newspaper columnists, James Varney, dispatches her fantasy with the same effortlessness as Neo’s vanquishing of Agent Smith in The Matrix without even having to bother to note that (1) if total spending on behalf of Cassidy, not the relative messages of the candidates, was more than for Landrieu and became so determinative of the outcome, then why was she not so upset when spending on Landrieu in the three previous races that she won was vastly higher than her previous opponents’, and (2) that Fox News, the presumed collective Svengali hypnotizing the Louisiana electorate, is not watched by a majority of households in the state whereas networks of the center- to far-left kind are and (as Varney noted, including his own employer) the vast majority of the state’s mainstream media endorsed her.

Yet even more laughable was one of the party’s campaign props in the process of trying defend her offered up pretty much exactly the same misdiagnosis as did she. Most hilarious was the contention that the election results were “understandably discouraging that so many Louisiana residents decided to vote against their own economic best interests, that so many women voted for a man who opposes the Violence Against Women Act, that so many who need health care the most have had their premiums increase as a result of the failures of our Republican governor in opening up $17.1 billion in expanded care coverage for our most vulnerable and poorest residents, more than 253,000 people — an expansion that would ultimately reduce costs and improve coverage policies all across the state,” when people voted for Cassidy precisely because their economic interests are not served by the liberal agenda that prevents them from keeping more of what they earn or from providing them with jobs, and its wanting to exert more control over their lives through needless regulation and pandering to end-of-days environmental fantasies; or because of knowing that VAWA has much more to do with a political agenda than any usefulness; or because of their understanding that Medicaid expansion will needlessly increase taxpayer costs while not improving outcomes for its presumed clients (even as this last issue has nothing to do with the U.S. Senate unless it’s over a debate to force states to expand its coverage).

For these reasons, long ago the Republican Party became the home of the working class, a historical development that befuddles both Peterson and the author – perhaps because the author is hung up on the last refuge of the deluded left as an explanation of how a white, privileged woman like Landrieu lost, in that these results make “impossible not to question the racial animus” presumably of white voters of whom roughly 20 percent chose her. Maybe it’s just Louisianans he accuses of being racists because they defeated a white chick who slavishly followed policies of a guy who identifies himself as black who is president, when vast majorities of white Utahans and South Carolinians skipped the white middlewoman to vent their Jim Crow upon and put straight into Congress a black female and black male, respectively. Then again, large majorities of white Louisianans statewide did vote, twice, for a guy who is perhaps even darker-skinned than the president ….

Thinking people may guffaw at the general cluelessness of these partisans, but it should worry any Democrat who contemplates a political future in office in Louisiana outside of a majority black district or in policy-making at both the state and local level, because these brain surgeons seek to provide leadership of and policy direction to state Democrats  The more ideological electorate that has emerged in the wake of 2014 elections in Louisiana, better able to match voting behavior to self interest, will punish Democrats statewide and in most jurisdictions for the sins of their national party if its state and local versions refuse to moderate their sycophantic views and to adapt, and the views expressed by these individuals show they don’t understand that it was this terminal liberalism that led to the election debacle. And if they are true believers, people like them will just double down the party to even greater depths.

So if you are one of those diehard aspiring Democrat office-seekers doesn’t believe that if the facts of the election don’t fit that they must be changed, you’re left with just one electoral strategy – one that this space already has conveniently revealed to you – subterfuge. It’s the party’s only chance to win enough elections to have any significant policy-making influence as long as the kind of thinking illustrated above is allowed to fester among its identifiers.

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