Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 marked the end of the transformation of Louisiana’s political party system, as every imaginable Republican defeated, and then some, every imaginable Democrat, a scenario unthinkable when Sen. Mary Landrieu first got herself elected to statewide office in 1987.
In these elections for Louisiana to fill its slate of federal elected officials, Democrat Landrieu struggled in her reelection bid against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, in the process becoming the first incumbent to lose from the state in over 80 years. Even as she lost by 12 percent, compared to her down-ballot colleagues she didn’t do badly.
In the Fifth Congressional District political newcomer Republican Dr.Ralph Abraham rolled up over 60 percent of the vote in triumphing over Democrat Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, and in the Sixth Congressional District longtime political aide and appointee Republican Garret Graves did the same against Democrat former Gov.Prisoner #03128-095. This will leave starting next year the only such Democrat in Louisiana being Rep. Cedric Richmond.
In a way having Richmond as the sole survivor for the party is fitting, for the idea that an unapologetic liberal – one who favors abortion and same-sex marriage, that sees racism forever institutionalized in government and society that requires race-based intervention to avoid, who demands higher taxes disproportionately foisted upon the productive class, supports bigger government in all of spending, transferring wealth, and of regulating peoples’ lives including of their firearms, conceptualizes pursuit of American interests globally as illegitimate, and who worships at the altar of the religion of significant anthropogenic climate change – could win federal office began with Landrieu. She was the first truly successful federal candidate and/or statewide candidate, starting with her initial state treasurer victory, that embraced the national Democrat agenda. Now her only heir left is Richmond, who wins only because he represents a district more prone to viewing the political world in lenses provided by trusted Democrat operatives ground from historical circumstance and whose constituents generally are less capable, for reasons of lower educational attainment, reduced information, and cultural factors based both on history and policy decisions reinforcing that, of matching issue preferences to longer term self-interests.
Up until then, even as successful statewide and/or federal candidates in the state were liberal economic populists, they often hewed closely to more conservative issue preferences in the realms of social and foreign policies – even back then vigorous but today’s moldy oldie opponent of Graves, known then as Edwin Edwards. As treasurer, Landrieu had little policy opportunity to demonstrate that, but when she ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1995 followed by her successful Senate run a year later, her deviance from the model became patently obvious. And for years she prospered electorally by casting enough pork barrel and selectively contradictory votes to the ideology inherent in her new model to fool enough voters to stay in office.
But as Louisiana voters have begun to think more ideologically and thereby a majority of them have ceased voting against their own self-interests, the unabashed liberal model of Landrieu fell of the weight of its own internal contradictions. Yet, more remarkably, all varieties of Louisiana Democrats got hammered in this election.
Edwards provided the traditional populist model common from a quarter-century ago, clearly now spent as anything more than a local phenomenon. Mayo gave a view of the “new south” version – the supposedly competent, business-oriented Democrat, and black on top of that like the majority in his constituency – but underneath that skin a white, northeastern liberal struggles to get out articulating the same tired themes of the necessity of wealth redistribution that scream out liberal populism.
So, regardless of being new wine in (if camouflaged) a new bottle (Landrieu), old wine in an old bottle (Edwards), or old wine in a new bottle (Mayo), large majorities found it all distasteful. Instead, the GOP diversity in its candidates was what succeeded among those in the electorate.
Cassidy, as a number of higher-profile elected Republicans in Louisiana’s recent history have done, made the conversion from Democrat to Republican, and while perhaps not as conservative as fellow House members Reps. Steve Scalise and John Fleming, is still plenty conservative and more than willing to rein in the excesses of the Pres. Barack Obama era. Graves came from an insider, government staff/executive background but still articulated solidly conservative themes to get the country back on track. Abraham illustrates the non-politician, conservative common man who after years of activism on the sidelines felt compelled to offer himself as a tonic to a national government more than ever straining to break from conservative restraints that preserve liberty.
On Saturday, all kinds of Republicans not only defeated all kinds of Democrats, but decisively so. This signals nothing abrupt, but rather the culmination of a process where Louisiana Democrats have made themselves a permanent minority by their leadership embracing the national party’s flailing liberal agenda, to the point that its candidates no longer can differentiate sufficiently themselves from it to be competitive except where political subcultures highly distinct from the state’s exist.
These election results show a majority of Louisiana voters have aligned their self-interests with parties’ and candidates’ agenda, voting congruently with these for the first time in memory, for federal and/or statewide offices. At the state level, it completes the process producing a party system with majority Republicans and minority Democrats, an entire reversal even of the recent past that gives every indication that it will endure for some time to come.