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Endorsement choices illustrate LA GOP shortcomings

While state general election results confirmed that Republicans remain Louisiana’s majority party, the behavior of some of its leading elected officials shows it has yet to learn how to govern in the fashion the state deserves and needs.

When the dust settles after Nov. 21, the GOP almost certainly will have extended slightly its legislative majorities and should continue to maintain an iron grip on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. However, it may not replicate its sweep of statewide elective offices, and most vexingly the one most likely to flip would be the most important, governor.

Although endorsements typically sway few voters, in this apparently close race they could make the difference. And so the failure not only of third-placed gubernatorial candidate Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle to endorse second-placed Republican Sen. David Vitter in the runoff, but also the endorsement by fourth-placed Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne of the first-placed Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards could prove costly to the GOP retaining the governor’s mansion.

Angelle throughout the campaign tried to present himself as an ideologically conservative candidate, yet now he stays silent in a contest where voters have a clear ideological choice between Vitter, who scores a lifetime 92 in the American Conservative Union Congressional ratings that denotes near-perfectly consistent conservative ideological voting, and Edwards, who on the Louisiana Legislature Log’s legislative ratings scored a lifetime 30, indicating solidly liberal and populist voting behavior. If, as the tone of his campaign demonstrated, Angelle attached such importance to issue preferences, inexplicably he does not do his utmost to advance the candidacy of the runoff participant that expresses his alleged issue preferences.

One explanation presents itself: that next year Angelle wishes to run for Vitter’s Senate seat regardless of who wins the runoff, meaning he would endorse his potential future opponent. Even so, his unwillingness to endorse Vitter shows Angelle seems more driven by political opportunism than by genuine concern over the state’s future. If in the coming years Angelle appears on ballots, particularly conservative voters should consider that when someone asserts to have a conservative ideology but passes on supporting an obvious advocate to that agenda against an obvious opponent of that agenda, then this shows he does not really mean what he claims.

Dardenne made few ideological appeals in his campaign, but his Edwards endorsement borders on the unfathomable for someone who trumpeted on his campaign website his party affiliation, the only major candidate to do so. His trail of Twitter posts shows he realizes the unmistakable differences between the GOP’s conservative platform and Edwards’ voting history and campaign promises, and he can’t be so naïve as to think having Edwards at the helm would not produce gubernatorial rule significantly injurious to what he claims as his agenda. Therefore, he must lack in a different way genuine commitment to conservatism.

To sell out in this fashion his reputed principles for whatever reason demonstrates, as with Angelle, an essential inability to provide the fortitude necessary to promulgate conservative policy. Thus, with Vitter available as an alternative, conservatives who did not vote for them chose wisely.

Louisiana has experienced a long history of poor leadership because too many of its politicians put personal feelings and ambitions ahead of what they knew was best for the state. Despite Republican gains of the last decade, because of this tendency only bits and pieces of conservatism have made their way into the state’s governing policy, retarding the state’s progress. An Edwards gubernatorial win facilitated by action or inaction of vanquished GOP rivals would continue this lamentable trend of irresponsibility and lost opportunities.

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