APPEL: The Continuing Decline Of Louisiana’s White Democrats

Why is it that in a state that is nearly 2/3 white, white Democrats are going the way of the dinosaur? By numbers of population one would believe that a major portion of Democrat elected officials in Louisiana would be white. But not so.

Despite what so many on the political left would have us believe, white departures from the Democratic Party in Louisiana are not because of a race-based effort by the Louisiana GOP. In fact, the truth is just the opposite. Those African Americans who participate in GOP organizations are honored members and the LAGOP openly solicits black members. No, the reason that Louisiana Democratic Party is rapidly becoming the “black party” in the legislature and statewide is deeper than a media-suggested conspiracy. In fact, a fundamental driver may well be African American Democrats themselves.

Due to the geographic concentration of black voters in Louisiana and because of the way black voters tend to vote as a bloc, aspiring Democratic politicians of all races are landlocked and have few opportunities outside of their District to be successful. Take, for example, a white politician in one of our major cities. If that politician is faced with competition from a reasonably good, well-financed black competitor then, no matter his or her capabilities, the odds of winning the election are marginal at best.

And despite the feigned outrage by liberals about “fair” voting districts, post-Civil Rights era history tells us that to a great extent legislative and Congressional districts were carved out to help African Americans, not white candidates. Take, for instance, the weirdly-shaped district that was crafted to create a black-majority Congressional seat currently held by Congressman Richmond. Except for the judicially-mandated need to create a black majority district, there is little or nothing in common between the urban citizens of New Orleans and the rural citizens of the River Parishes (or, for that matter, the majority-black parts of Baton Rouge) that make up the district. The same can be said for so many of the legislative districts currently held by black politicians. Despite all the liberal hubris, black politicians like their safe seats and do not want to have to run in districts in which they may have to face well supported white candidates. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s human nature.

So, what keeps so many white Democrat politicians from being competitive in Louisiana? The inevitable future is that almost all Democratic seats will be held by African Americans. White candidates know that if they lived in a majority black district and must face that good-quality, well-financed black candidate the odds are strongly against them. In effect black voting patterns in districts in which there might be some chance to elect a white Democrat will force white candidates to re-think their options. They could run as Republican and try to separate themselves from Democrat policies in order to find some support, or they can just move to a liberal district that is whiter in makeup. Fewer and fewer of those seem to exist.

Beside black bloc-voting patterns, white Democrats are also becoming rare because of political philosophy. Put simply, the Democratic Party and those running for office under its banner, promote beliefs and policies that are an anathema to most Louisiana citizens. The people of Louisiana are fundamentally conservative and, after decades of bad outcomes, are fed up with leftist social and economic policies promoted by both white and black Democrats. These policies are accepted in black majority districts, but do not find acceptance in whiter districts.

Finally, white candidates are shying away because they recognize the political reality that white Democrats who do win face legislative isolation. Black numbers and leadership in the Democratic Delegation will severely limit a white legislator’s opportunity to play a meaningful role. As African Americans command the majority of the Democrat Delegation, they by default determine the legislation to support and committee assignments and chairmanships. Opportunities for white Democrats are just not there. Why spend all that money and effort to be perpetually relegated to the back bench?

The major exception of black dominance among Democratic elected officials is Governor Edwards. Without a doubt his election was a fluke, a perfect storm of a flawed Republican candidate running for an office that was held by an equally flawed governor. Because his liberal beliefs were so opposite to those held by most Louisianans (something that to this day is under-recognized by the electorate), I suspect that the most surprised candidate on the day after the election was the new governor himself.

During the 2019 election cycle, term limits will assure that a substantial number of long-serving white Democrats and faux Republicans will be out of office. As legislative seats are by design among the closest politicians get to the people and since the majority of the people of Louisiana have long ago had enough of liberal policies that have depressed Louisiana prosperity for decades, this fall’s election cycle will be without a doubt a huge swing in favor of conservative Republicans.

As to the Democratic Party’s message to Louisiana, an event in New Orleans made clear what the state Party stands for and where it offers to lead. A large gathering of college Democrats featured some of that Party’s most extreme left-wing superheroes. Publicly embraced by the leadership of Louisiana’s Democratic Party were these extremist politicians whose whole background reflects the racial and identity politics that have turned so many Louisianans away from the Democratic Party. The message to citizens in Louisiana, if you are a conservative or moderate Democrat and by inference not a person of color, is that you are not welcome.

Looking forward, there are two main scenarios in Louisiana politics. These will be driven by the reality that the legislature will become more conservative, that white Democrat members will eventually stabilize at a very low level. Under the first scenario, Governor Edwards would be re-elected. In this case, as the GOP will dominate the legislature, in order to avoid absolute gridlock, he will have to dramatically abandon his liberal agenda. If he doesn’t and inevitably gridlock sets in, or if he seeks compromise with Republicans, his inability to deliver for black majority Democrats will exacerbate his political collapse as he loses whatever black support that he may have had. Add to his woes, his first-term tax and spending policies coupled with an expected national recession will cause the state to fall into an economic and fiscal disaster not seen since the oil crisis of the 1980’s. Under a second Edwards’ term, he and Louisiana face bad times.

The other scenario is that Louisiana elects a GOP governor. Aligned with a conservative legislature the prospects for a fiscally sound and pro-growth future lay open to citizens. But to the Democratic Party it spells further marginalization. As when the national economy took off when Trump dumped the big government policies touted by national Democrats, Louisiana’s people might see prosperity for the first time if either Ralph Abraham or Eddie Rispone can implement a pro-growth agenda. The expectation of future prosperity in lieu of government dependency will further erode the past Democrat hegemony in Louisiana. It will also offer the truly amazing possibility that the infamous black voting block would be shattered, as African American citizens realize the benefit of the end of Democrat policies that have long retarded black prosperity and they too abandon the Democrat Party.

In any case the state Democratic Party faces a serious problem. Its leaders are aligning with far-left, socialist causes at a time when Louisiana has finely recognized that such ideas are the reason that our state has fallen so far behind other southern states. Black politicians to the disadvantage of white Democrats take for an absolute that African Americans will always vote en bloc for Democrats, so they are not motivated to work with Republicans to help their own constituents.

We are at a time that future political scientists will write about. As white Democrats disappear, will there ever be a resurgence in the Democratic Party in Louisiana or will it always remain as a loud but marginalized, politically minority Party?

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