This isn’t a theory of ours so much as it’s a fairly obvious reaction to the results of a tracking poll done by CIVIQS, a polling firm which maintains a huge online database they say is scientific enough to generate poll results worth paying attention to. Several politicos we keep up with are using CIVIQS more and more to take the temperature of what’s out there in American politics and suggested we do the same.
As such, we’ve been watching its results particularly on the question of President Biden’s approval rating. They’ve got Biden at a disastrous 37 percent, with 54 percent disapproval. But what we’ve noticed in Louisiana, as the CIVIQS tracking poll is broken out by state and continuously updated, is even worse.
The internals within those numbers are what really opened our eyes. A 26-64 result on Biden approval is certainly bad enough, but if some of these numbers below the top line hold you could see lasting effects on Louisiana politics.
The thing to understand is that yes, Louisiana is a red state. We’re conservative here on a lot of key issues. This is as pro-life a state as you’ll find. It’s as pro-gun a state as there is. Louisiana is not a big LGBTQ+ type of place, though in New Orleans it’s pretty much accepted that anything goes. We’re big hunters and fishermen and to Louisiana, PETA stands for People Eating Tasty Animals.
This is not a woke state. Culturally and socially Louisiana is deep red, and our politics at the state level reflects that.
Economically, though, the Huey Long legacy has warped this state such that even the handful of Republican governors we’ve had haven’t been able to change the fundamentally socialist bent of our politics when it comes to the expected size and scope of government. This is very much a big-government statist polity, and that fact has chased off a ton of our entrepreneurs and professional people – not to mention it’s gotten in the way of what should have been a big influx of people who are migrating to Southern states from parts north, east and west.
Then there’s the jungle primary, which has had lots of strange effects on this state’s politics that you don’t see in, say, Texas, Tennessee or Florida. In those places, particularly on the Republican side, authenticity and ideological consistency is pretty much a prerequisite for getting elected to major office. Here it’s the opposite to a large degree; in a Louisiana jungle primary it happens reasonably often that you’ll get two Republicans in a runoff and the “moderate,” who in many cases is a Democrat who switched parties because Democrats are in bad odor in that particular district, beats the conservative quite often.
All of this has meant, at least here and there, that there’s a sweet spot for a certain kind of Democrat in Louisiana politics. John Bel Edwards (as was Mary Landrieu before him) is the perfect example of that – he positioned himself as a cultural conservative who claims to be staunchly Catholic and unapologetically pro-life, he’s said he’s pro-2nd Amendment and made commercials showing himself as a hunter, he comes from a law enforcement family and he went to West Point. That made him acceptable to enough Republican voters that his voting record in the state legislature, which was further to the left than any member of the Legislative Black Caucus, didn’t even factor into the 2015 election. Edwards got elected because voters in places like Jefferson Parish, who don’t hesitate to vote “R” in every federal race and who won’t elect a Democrat to the state legislature, the BESE board or the Public Service Commission, decided they’d go with Edwards over some flawed but not exactly implausible Republicans.
But when Biden is at 26 percent approval in Louisiana, that sweet spot might well be closing. Particularly when you look at the details.
Among white voters in Louisiana Joe Biden has an approval rating of 11 percent. Some 84 percent disapprove. That’s catastrophic.
Among blacks, he’s at 56 percent, with 24 percent disapproval. That isn’t just catastrophic, it’s eye-popping and it might be transformative.
The conventional wisdom in Louisiana, which was reinforced when Claston Bernard, a first-time Republican candidate who nevertheless has a solid resume and a good amount of political potential, came in a poor fourth in the 2nd District congressional special election this spring, has been that black voters here show zero interest in giving the Republican Party a second look like they’ve begun to do in other states. But if the CIVIQS poll is correct, that 56 percent among black voters in Louisiana – which is 12 points below the national number of 68 percent – might indicate there is some potential in the black community for Republicans after all.
The presence of former 2nd District congressman Cedric Richmond in the Biden White House was expected to solidify Biden’s black support in the South, and obviously Louisiana in particular. Well, that certainly isn’t happening.
Even worse is the Hispanic vote in Louisiana, which is tiny compared to our western neighbors. Nationally, Hispanics are 48-40 on Biden approval, which is a bad number he can’t afford. But in Louisiana? Try 20-71. With numbers like that you begin to see the Hispanic vote in Louisiana as a Republican constituency – and that’s looking like the case in a number of other states as well. Among the places Biden is underwater with Hispanics are Florida (43-48), Texas (39-49), New Mexico (41-48), Tennessee (38-49), South Carolina (28-60), Georgia (27-60) and Nevada (44-46).
Something else to notice in Biden’s awful approval numbers in Louisiana is the younger the voters the more they hate him. Biden’s approval is 16-69 with the 18-34 crowd, 23-64 with the 35-49’s, 30-64 with the 50-64’s and 36-59 with the 65-plus set. Our theory is the older voters are more forgiving of Biden’s apparent bouts with dementia, while younger voters are disgusted by it.
And another thing we were struck by is how polarizing a figure Biden is. Democrats in Louisiana give him a 71-11 number, meaning that he’s hanging on to the white leftists and the more partisan black Democrat voters. But Biden’s approval among Republicans in Louisiana is…
One percent. With 97 percent disapproval.
We’ve never seen anything like that before.
Independents can’t stand him, either. He’s down 23-63 with them.
But with Republicans hating Joe Biden this much, the real question is whether that’s at all salvageable even for Democrats not named Joe Biden any time soon. It might just be that Joe Biden has so poisoned Louisiana’s politics with the disaster in Afghanistan, the declaration of war against oil and gas, the supply chain mess and its effect on trade, his disastrous COVID policies and the runaway leftism of the national Democrat party that Republican voters in Louisiana will never cross the aisle again.
CIVIQS has specific numbers on COVID response, and they’re interesting – though they do make us scratch our heads a bit.
John Bel Edwards has more or less tracked exactly with Biden where COVID policy is concerned. And Louisiana’s voters give a 54-43 thumbs up to the question of local government COVID response. But where it comes to federal COVID response, it’s a resounding 40-58 thumbs-down. We’re not sure what to make of that, other than somehow Edwards has managed to make people believe he’s not like Biden on the issue.
In any event, these numbers would indicate that if you’re a Democrat and you want to win contested elections in Louisiana, either at the statewide level or in the few districts which could go either way, you are going to have to be openly hostile to Joe Biden and specifically differentiate yourself from the president and the national Democrat party. How to do that while still being able to draw down the Democrats’ money is a question; frankly, our guess is the 2023 statewide election cycle will be, unless something changes, a political apocalypse for white Democrats in Louisiana. As it stands now this looks like a formula for only a handful of white Democrats left in the House of Representatives, perhaps even zero in the state senate and a virtual impossibility for any of them to get elected in a statewide race.
And black Democrats can’t get elected in Louisiana outside of majority-minority districts.
The real question is whether this seething hatred for Joe Biden will reach across the political aisle a bit, so to speak, and make even moderate Republicans unelectable. Our operating theory is “probably not,” but on the other hand we’ve never seen anything like this. It might well be that voter disgust is so profound with Democrats that anything smelling remotely like one isn’t sellable anymore.
The old joke during the Obama years held that Democrats were so unpopular in Louisiana we’d start hunting them with dogs. That never actually panned out, of course, but now it might not be so crazy. Biden has put himself and his party next to Alabama football and the West Nile virus in popularity here, and that’s going to have an effect on our politics going forward.