SEVEN LESSONS FROM AN ELECTION-NIGHT DUMPSTER FIRE: Lesson Four

LOUISIANA VOTERS ARE MORONS, BUT OUR ELECTORAL SYSTEM REQUIRES THEM TO BE.

Republicans are losing control of Louisiana’s agenda to perhaps the most left-wing Democrat in the state’s history, and certainly the most left-wing Democrat in modern times. This despite an electorate made up of voters who typically pull the lever for the GOP between 55 and 60 percent of the time, and that fact has not changed. While David Vitter was getting annihilated by John Bel Edwards, Billy Nungesser and Jeff Landry were both winning landslide victories against Democrats (yes, Buddy Caldwell calls himself a Republican, but only since 2011 and it’s difficult to make the case for him as much of a conservative based on his record).

Why would conservative voters choose a liberal governor? Was it not obvious to these people that Edwards had been right there, smiling, as the neo-Communist racist Karen Carter Peterson re-nominated Barack Obama for president at the 2012 Democrat National Convention? Did the entry of Cleo Fields, Mary Landrieu and Hillary Clinton on Edwards’ side not give some clue to what they were buying? Was the colossal pile of trial lawyer and union money landing at his feet not an elephant in the room? Did it not get through the heads of these people that this man had a legislative record among the worst in state politics from both LABI and the Louisiana Family Forum?

What’s coming – soon – is the great hangover from one of the most discordant political choices imaginable. John Bel Edwards sold himself as a conservative Democrat, but has no intention of governing as such.

We’ll have more on what that will look like in a coming lesson, but the abject stupidity of a voting public that perhaps semi-consciously chose to repudiate its own professed political values over a 15-year old sex scandal must be noted.

As Ed Koch once said, “The people have spoken … and they must be punished.” Congratulations, Louisiana. Enjoy your billions in new tax burdens, net out-migration, public sector incompetence and rampant corruption. Meet the New Louisiana Democrat Party, which is precisely the same as the old Louisiana Democrat Party. The new residents of Plano, The Woodlands, Katy and Round Rock, Texas, Peachtree City, Georgia, Glendale, Arizona and Olive Branch, Mississippi, as well as other locales in the soon-to-be-growing Louisiana diaspora, will be snickering in relief over the next four years.

Why are our voters idiots? Because our political system requires them to be.

No intelligent electoral process consists of a jungle primary, and yet Louisiana is addicted to the suffering it inflicts upon us. Not only do we exsanguinate from the open wound of a system which pits candidates of the same party against each other on the same election day and in front of the same voters as candidates of opposite parties, we allow that system to give us a general election only four weeks after the jungle primary.

That is insane, it’s stupid, it encourages our elections to be decided by money from out-of-state interests, it greatly favors incumbents while discouraging insurgent and citizen candidates and in case after case it encourages voters to make dumb decisions.

The jungle primary should have been done away with after the disgrace of the 1991 gubernatorial election, when one Democrat – Edwin Edwards – was able to skate to election just four years after having been turned from office in failure thanks to the presence of three Republicans as major candidates in the primary, and a hollow protest candidate in David Duke slipped past the incumbent governor Buddy Roemer into the primary. In a party primary Duke would without question not have been the GOP nominee; Roemer was unpopular and ran a poor campaign, but Republican voters would have been sure to recognize Roemer had a far better chance of beating Edwards than the embarrassing former Klan leader Duke and he would have easily won the nomination.

But in a jungle primary, the protest vote was large enough to get Duke into a runoff with Edwards.

The experience didn’t get any better after 1991. Mike Foster managed to position himself as a conservative protest candidate by switching to Republican at the last minute before the 1995 election and buying Duke’s mailing list in order to romance that voting bloc, and that bit of sharp political dealing enabled him to push into a runoff with the laughable hustler Cleo Fields; nobody could say that Foster and Fields represented the two best candidates the state had to offer, though Foster did manage to give Louisiana one good term as governor before retiring on active duty during his second term. And the lack of party primaries allowed the Louisiana Democrat Party to largely collapse after Kathleen Blanco’s failed term as governor in 2007 and 2011; the Democrats didn’t effectively present an alternative to Bobby Jindal in either year, though had there been a party primary we might have seen a head-to-head matchup vetting Jindal against either Foster Campbell or Walter Boasso in 2007.

And then came this year.

You will hear lots of post-election sniping at David Vitter, and particularly from ankle-biters in the Jay Dardenne camp. Dardenne’s campaign manager Jay Vicknair, who proved himself a conservative trooper by enlisting in Vitter’s campaign for the runoff, is exempt from this criticism; others are not. But the substance of the critique is that Vitter was the least likely GOP candidate to beat John Bel Edwards, while some polls showed that Dardenne was the most likely of the three.

In a party primary, such considerations can and do play a substantial part in the outcome. In a jungle primary, they do not. And therefore, the Dardenne supporters now launching “I told you so” taunts at their fellow Republicans from the depths of his fourth place finish in the primary would do well to hold their tongues. After all, their man received only 15 percent of the primary vote; considering that 58 percent of it went to Republican candidates that means three-quarters of Republican voters had no interest in electing Jay Dardenne governor, and when he turned his coat and supported Edwards for the runoff he made it crystal clear precisely why – those Republican voters perceived that he didn’t see anything interesting in them, and they reciprocated by rejecting him. Jay Dardenne wasn’t conservative enough to attract Republican support, either by record or by articulation.

Perhaps if Dardenne would have been in a GOP primary, he would have been forced to run as a conservative and then perhaps he might have been a better candidate. Maybe a Vitter-Angelle-Dardenne GOP primary could have focused on the ideological distinctions between the candidates and maybe Dardenne and Angelle might have spent some time jousting among each other rather than bloodying Vitter for six months prior to the primary.

And if there were 90 days, rather than a mere four weeks, between the primary and the general election there would have been more time to stitch up the wounds created by three Republicans stabbing each other while the one Democrat in the race was unmolested.

The Vitter campaign lost in no small part because it saw Edwards as an afterthought to be dispatched when the primary was over. He wasn’t touched until it was too late, when it was incumbent on Vitter to insure the public knew precisely what Edwards’ voting record is.

Instead, Edwards wins – thanks to a public who has been sold a bill of goods that he’s “not so bad.” That fantasy is going to dissipate very quickly, and Louisiana’s voters will be left once again wondering why their choices, and options, ended up so wanting.



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