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Will Angelle, Dardenne sulk or show statesmanship?

Will a Republican firing squad help Louisiana’s Democrats in 2015 party like it’s 1979 in reverse?

In last year’s win by Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy over Democratic former Sen. Mary Landrieu, which could have happened about a month earlier had military retiree Rob Maness not run in a race that he should have realized he never had a chance to win as he differed little from Cassidy on the issues, Maness did eventually, perhaps grudgingly, give Cassidy an endorsement. Maness being in the contest made Cassidy unable to win the general election outright, and six days after it Maness put his money where his mouth had been to back up his saying during the campaign that he would prefer Cassidy over Landrieu.

It’s now been well over a week since Republican Sen. David Vitter made it into a runoff with Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, yet the two Republicans vanquished as a result, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, have yet to utter a peep about whom they would prefer. During the campaign, Angelle deferred in releasing such information, but Dardenne implied that he would not endorse Vitter in such a circumstance.

These dynamics harken back to 1979, when after Democrat Public Service Commissioner Louis Lambert squeaked into a runoff with Republican Rep. Dave Treen. While the state clearly still possessed Democrat sympathies, the major Democrat candidates aced out by Lambert turned on him, striking deals with the Treen campaign for funds relief for their overextended campaign finances and with Treen for potential appointments if he won, in exchange for endorsements of Treen or at least not endorsing Lambert or working on his behalf. Treen narrowly won, the debts paid, and the appointments made.

Nothing as grandiose in terms of deals seems in the offing in 2015, with the potential exception of Angelle retaining his appointment to the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors in 2018 if Edwards were to win without Angelle stumping for Vitter; Dardenne seems set on retiring from electoral politics. Instead, it seems that personal animosity rather than pecuniary relief and/or clinging to political power drives the silence to date of Angelle and Dardenne.

Certainly Vitter’s take-no-prisoner style of politics for a quarter of a century has caused plenty of indigestion among some Republicans, although the rhetoric of Angelle and Dardenne that disparaged Vitter as a person gave Vitter every reason not to hold back in his campaign criticisms of the GOP duo. The question now is whether the pair will act out of pique rather than out of policy considerations.

On the issues, Edwards’ liberal Democrat preferences put him clearly much further away from them than they are to Vitter. If they truly cared about the direction of state policy, they would support Vitter and would advise others to do so, even if tepidly. But if they want to sulk and count coup by feeling like lack of each's support would cost Vitter the election, even if that means a less preferable policy environment over the next four years (a hypothetical Edwards win puts him up against solidly Republican legislative chambers that will allow few of his liberal preferences to see the light of day, but certainly little progress would be made in advancing a conservative agenda), they could cut off their noses to spite their faces.

In a way, this resentment indicates health and vigor of the state’s Republicans. Spirited competition shows where the majority is and produces the most forward-thinking ideas. But pettiness rather than statesmanship among its leading politicians does not become a majority party and degrades its ability to rule that includes translating those ideas into policy, much less in this instance point Louisiana to an inferior immediate future.

Angelle and Dardenne need to put egos aside and do the right thing by Republicans and their own supporters, the views of the vast majority of whom are much closer to Vitter than Edwards. Those interested in good governance and superior policy-making in the state would appreciate that the couple signals acceptance of Vitter’s agenda to provide voter guidance, even if that to them tacitly conveys acceptance of him.

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