Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s mushrooming desperation over retaining a spot in the Senate is that when she inevitably played the race card, she did not do so in its usual manner, off the bottom of the deck. Rather, she displayed it openly and proudly, as if she thought this was the thing polite people do, without any shame, lacking any self-awareness how by doing so that confirmed she had about as much character as the pictorial symbol of her political party – or that it shows complete surrender to a strategy of that plays to the worst in people that likely will not work to bring her electoral victory.
That when Landrieu declared on national television that unfavorable feelings in Louisiana about Pres. Barack Obama – who had a white mother and black father but who identifies himself as a black American – were as a result of “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans …. [making it difficult] for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader” did not come accidentally at the time in the campaign that it did. With the last dozen polls showing her behind Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy heads-up, early voting not providing any helpful news for her campaign, andjust having had the last candidate debate, where Cassidy committed no errors, she really has to go for broke, and the standard (pun intended) Hail Mary play in the Democrats’ playbook is to plead with voters, particularly their base, to stop thinking and start emoting, juiced by scare tactics and attempted delegitimating of those who disagree with you on the issues.
The strategy has the upside of mobilizing that base. It’s a dog whistle to low information voters, particularly blacks, that opposition to the likes of Democrats such as Landrieu and Obama only can result from racist motives, and therefore implies that to allow the opposition to her to win would create more racism in American government. It’s intended to frighten the base enough to get it to the polls to vote for Landrieu.
But it also carries considerable risks, because it causes anger, exasperation, and befuddlement among the more knowledgeable about politics who are not jaundiced by ideology. While they know that there’s always going to be a small segment in any society that, as part of its world view, will use prejudice as significant input into the political affect it has of political objects and guide its behavior, they also know that doesn’t typify the vast majority of people. More specifically, they understand that in the main Louisianans reject Obama because his policies in the aggregate are bad and wrong not just for Louisiana, but for the country – as confirmed by thecongruence of their rejection of his policies with their dislike for his performance in office.
So imagine the still-undecided voter, disproportionately a no-party registrant or a registered Democrat who often for national elections votes for Republican candidates, being told by Landrieu that his qualms with Obama policies that Landrieu has supported, leading to a dim view of the president, are not because he has considered the issues, but because he’s a stupid person held back by racial feelings deep in his psyche. If in response to your dilemma you knew you were going to vote but didn’t know yet for whom, would you seriously consider the candidate who insulted your intelligence? And if you had decided to resolve the dilemma by not voting, would it not activate you to vote for anybody but her because you do not want the embarrassment of having the holder of such anti-intellectual attitudes representing you in the Senate?
In her flight from intellectual argumentation to pandering to the visceral, Landrieu gambles that she can activate more otherwise non-participant voters through riling emotions than she will turn off intended voters and some that had no intention to vote. It is a tactic that attempts no unification of people around a popular agenda based upon ideas, but disunity to muscle into power your interests over theirs by assuming human beings have no interests in common. Perhaps Gov. Bobby Jindal, himself a dark-skinned American of a minority ethnic group, best summed up the attitude behind the strategy when he noted, “Senator Landrieu’s comments are remarkably divisive. She appears to be living in a different century.”
Corollary to the strategic shift by Landrieu to go all in on voter mobilization by scare tactics rather than by persuasion of the public through intellectual argumentation is she places all her eggs in the basket of winning next Tuesday. A December runoff disproportionately would attract more knowledgeable voters more likely to decide on the basis of ideas, not emotions, making this tactic far less useful in that environment. She signals by this move that she has no confidence that she can win such a contest.
(Somewhat lost in her remarks was that she extended the illusory widespread cultural attitudes apparently still regnant in the Louisiana public to sexual chauvinism as well, presumably meaning feelings against her as female. Not only is her statement on that account entirely illogical if not buffoonish – she has been elected statewide five times, after all, against mostly male opponents – but the entire Democrat meme that somehow the GOP is waging some kind of “war on women” long ago lost credibility, in Louisiana not the least indicated by the fact in the latest UNO Poll that in a runoff with Cassidy she loses 50-44 among women.)
A false indictment of racism against her constituents serves only her naked political interests and not the state, and relies upon an outdated model of Louisiana’s political culture. More likely than not, fewer people will be frightened into voting for her as a result of these remarks than will base their vote on the knowledge that the anti-intellectualism she revealed displays her lack of seriousness as an official committed to helping the state, and thereby disqualifies her from continuing in that office.