Today’s revelation that ubiquitous former governor Kathleen Blanco is now sitting on the Louisiana Democrat Party’s executive committee isn’t a major surprise. In fact, it’s a quite essential occurrence given several circumstances confronting the state’s Dems.
After all, longtime Blanco crony Buddy Leach is now running the party; many believe that Leach entered the 2003 governor’s race as a stalking horse for Blanco to siphon black vote from Richard Ieyoub and get the then-lieutenant governor into the runoff with Bobby Jindal, which she then managed to win. Whether that theory has merit or not is a good question; Leach spent some $8.5 million in that race, or some $44 per vote – which is a fairly expensive favor. With Leach now heading the state party, serving on the executive committee is the least Blanco could do for him if the above accurately describes their past relationship.
Also, Louisiana’s Democrats are possessed of a woefully short bench. Democrats sit on just 55 seats in the state House of Representatives, the lowest number since Reconstruction, and 23 seats in the Senate. They’re still majorities in both houses, but so many Democrat legislators are members of that party in name only that Louisiana’s Republican governor has gotten most of what he wants since his inauguration. The only statewide offices the Democrats hold are the lieutenant governor’s office, which they will likely lose when Mitch Landrieu takes over his new job as mayor of New Orleans, and attorney general Buddy Caldwell. They hold just one of the state’s seven congressional seats, and in an election where Barack Obama won a convincing victory over John McCain, Louisiana Democrats managed only 40 percent of the vote for the eventual president. In other words, finding Democrats who know how to win a significant election in this state isn’t easy – Blanco is one of the few still around who can claim such a mantle, which makes her in demand regardless of the low approval ratings she left office with.
What’s more, Louisiana’s Democrats are out of ideas. Leftist economics are badly out of style in this state, as they are in most of the country, and the electorate is well aware that there simply isn’t any money to embark on new government programs. Further, with the enthusiastic gobbling of power and responsibility by Democrats at the national level, there is little available for state Democrats to propose which would capture the imagination of the electorate. Given that the Democrats are now reduced to offering Republican Lite to Louisiana’s public, presenting themselves as wise old owls capable of authoritatively criticizing the actions of the current GOP-dominated state government is probably the best move. Digging up someone like Blanco for a prominent position in the party thus makes sense – and it fits with Blanco’s agenda of attempting to resuscitate her image for some future purpose (whatever that might be).
So don’t expect this to be the last piece of evidence that Blanco is still around. She’s likely to be quite vocal in this new position and it wouldn’t be a major shock to see her use it to build a power base for another run at electoral office, perhaps next year. Blanco is 67 years old and she’s been in politics since 1983; one might imagine she’s ready to be put to pasture but if Leach, who will be 76 at the end of the month and hasn’t won an election since 1983, is still in the game age is no restriction on involvement in Democrat politics in Louisiana.
After all, who needs new talent. They’re putting the band back together!