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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.


Voters acting in own interests sideline LA Democrats

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 marked the end of the transformation of Louisiana’s political party system, as every imaginable Republican defeated, and then some, every imaginable Democrat, a scenario unthinkable when Sen. Mary Landrieu first got herself elected to statewide office in 1987.

In these elections for Louisiana to fill its slate of federal elected officials, Democrat Landrieu struggled in her reelection bid against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, in the process becoming the first incumbent to lose from the state in over 80 years. Even as she lost by 12 percent, compared to her down-ballot colleagues she didn’t do badly.

In the Fifth Congressional District political newcomer Republican Dr. Ralph Abraham rolled up over 60 percent of the vote in triumphing over Democrat Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, and in the Sixth Congressional District longtime political aide and appointee Republican Garret Graves did the same against Democrat former Gov. Prisoner #03128-095. This will leave starting next year the only such Democrat in Louisiana being Rep. Cedric Richmond.


Change desire expressed by Shreveport, Caddo voters

When looking at the sum total of local elections in Caddo Parish this year, throwing out bums, or at least not letting them into office, erupted as the overall theme among voters.

Not entirely accidentally the highest profile contest, Shreveport mayor, saw the two quality candidates least connected to previous electoral office advance to the runoff. Rank amateur Victoria Provenza dispatched a sitting city councilman and state representative, while winner Ollie Tyler only had executive experience as a political appointee to run the parish’s largest government (by operating budget the Caddo Parish School District) but her first election try which brought victory now puts her in charge of the entity in the parish with the second largest budget.

Tyler defeated Provenza, a white no-party candidate, because she was a black Democrat in a city where 41.7 percent of registered voters are black Democrats. More interesting is that the other two major officeholders who didn’t make the runoff also were black Democrats. These electorally experienced candidates got rejected. While Tyler was perceived by many to be the choice of outgoing Mayor Cedric Glover, she does represent something of a break with a mayor under whose leadership Shreveport seemed to stagnate.


Moribund Democrats look to put up stealth candidates

As Louisiana Democrats find themselves sliding into political oblivion, they find on offer two strategies to become meaningful again at the statewide level: adapt to the median voter’s issue preference, or to rely on subterfuge. Early indications are their hardheaded leaders will rely on the latter.

As the party as a whole, mimicking its national superstructure, has drifted away from the preferences of Louisiana’s majority, not surprisingly voters have turned away from it. It lost its legislative majorities shortly before the 2011 elections, not long before the switch by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to the GOP gave the state all Republicans in statewide state elected offices. The year before, the U.S. House of Representatives delegation had gone all Republican except for the sole black-majority district in the state, and now with the rout suffered by Sen. Mary Landrieu last weekend in her bid for reelection, no one elected statewide is a Democrat. Keep in mind that two decades ago Democrats held all statewide elected offices, all but two U.S. House districts, and 85 percent of the seats in the Legislature.

Voting publics do not shift so radically in preferences, but party elites do, and thus if they wish to be more successful electorally they must persuade the public to vote for them – clearly unsuccessfully – or moderate their extremism in issue preferences. Yet as the campaigns of Landrieu and other Democrat competitors for House seats this fall – who endured defeats worse than Landrieu’s – showed, Democrat elites don’t exactly seem open to that.