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Times change, yellow dog Democrats stay same

Louisiana’s special election for treasurer surprised only in winning margin for incoming Treas. John Schroder, proving the state’s yellow dog Democrats are alive and well.

As expected, Republican Schroder defeated Democrat Derrick Edwards, but only by a margin of 56-44 percent. The statewide turnout of one-in-eight voters came after, through almost the end of October this year, Schroder had spent over $917,000 or about $4.40 per vote and Edwards $23,000 or around $0.14 per vote.

Schroder’s victory by just 12 percent despite outspending until recently Edwards over 300:1 came as a result of maniacal party discipline by Democrats – even though the state party refused to endorse him, an attorney who had run for U.S. Senate last year and received a pittance of the vote, until it became too politically inconvenient not to. Edwards did next to no campaigning and, when he did make rare statements about the office, never spoke of its duties.

Yet the “D” next to Edwards’ name on the ballot powered him to a better finish than, for example, longtime Democrat politician Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, who never is shy about talking about what he does or will do in office (and who donated substantially to Edwards), in that Senate contest’s runoff. While none of the wacky scenarios necessary for him to win occurred, he won one-in-eight parishes, although seven of these produced turnout below the statewide average. Of those seven, Edwards won a higher proportion of the vote than Democrats registered in Madison and St. John the Baptist.

The remaining parish, Orleans and Edwards’ home base where the only serious campaigning for him occurred, played heavily into the contest’s dynamic. Additionally spurred by the New Orleans municipal elections, featuring all-Democrat runoff contests for mayor and most city council spots, it had by far the state’s heaviest turnout at nearly a third. With 8.7 percent of the state’s registrants, it comprised over a fifth of all voters and provided 39 percent of Edwards’ total, where he won a stunning 80 percent.

Keep in mind that likely the majority of those pushing Edwards’ button in Orleans never received a campaign communication from him and probably few knew anything about him. Also consider that only 64 percent there registered as Democrats, meaning to reach four-fifths of the entire vote almost all those Democrats who did turn out voted for Edwards. More probably encountered a campaign communication from Schroder, who as a state legislator had extensive experienced with financial matters in government.

Certainly it took an insane partisan loyalty in Orleans, and to a lesser but significantly high degree across the state, to have someone basically unknown by the vast swath of the electorate who made no real case to affirm qualifications for the office he sought to do so well. This confirms that Louisiana’s Democrats in large part have become a party of drones, willing to vote for anybody who calls themselves a Democrat, no matter how unserious of a candidate they appear to be, when matched up against any Republican.

Thus, nothing really has changed with Louisiana Democrats compared to the post-World War II period through the civil rights era. The party’s composition both in terms of who and where they live – from mainly rural and almost exclusively white to majority urban and black – has changed, but its adherents still would vote for a yellow dog if that animal runs singly against a lone GOP opponent. One wishes their decision-making would involve less reflexivity and more cognition.

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