Developments in this year’s Louisiana U.S. Senate contest ensure that, barring extraordinary circumstances, Democrats won’t win a statewide election for years, perhaps even a generation.
In the past quarter-century, the party recognized it had a problem. The national party’s relentless march to the political left, the rollout of the Internet that began eroding mainstream media domination of the political communication universe, and rising educational attainment among the population encouraging greater knowledge of and use of critical thinking in evaluating politics, detached increasing numbers particularly of white voters from voting for the party’s candidates, as increasingly the electorate understood preferences identified with the party went against their own self-interests.
State Democrats responded by trying to control candidate entry, especially by discouraging black candidates from running statewide with the 1995 gubernatorial election as ground zero. There, black Democrat former Rep. Cleo Fields aced out white Democrat Treasurer Mary Landrieu from a runoff against new Republican state Sen. Mike Foster. When Foster crushed Fields in the runoff, this brought home fears that a black candidate – more easily perceived by the electorate, both black and white, as farther to the left thus turning off Louisiana’s center-right white majority – if making a runoff would set up Democrats to fail.
Foster’s massive reelection over Democrat Rep. Bill Jefferson four years later appeared to confirm the tendency. With an electorate 28.6 percent black and Democrat registration of 61.1 percent of the electorate but of which 39.2 percent of that portion was black, Democrat leaders knew the black electorate was too small to elect one of their own given white conservative numbers statewide and others’ reticence to vote for candidates easily identifiable as leftists, about which neither Fields nor Jefferson left any ambiguity.
However, black registrant numbers also allowed the largely white leadership of Democrats to continue to act as gatekeepers to contesting statewide offices. As long as these remained sufficiently low, leaders compellingly could discourage black candidates by refusing to direct donor and other resources their way by pointing out the numbers weren’t there for a black candidate to succeed, where a white might. Thus, in both gubernatorial and Senate contests for the next two decades, and for almost every other statewide office, no mainstream black candidate ran.
The surprise win of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2015 and his subsequent squeaker of a reelection in 2019 – the only two statewide wins for the party since 2008 – seemed to confirm this strategy, but in reality were deviant events that papered over significant change. By 2010 blacks became the plurality of Democrats, and became the majority in 2013. Today, they comprise 59.8 percent of Democrats, while the party as a whole has just 40 percent of the electorate. Blacks make up 31.2 percent of the entire electorate.
Thus, it’s no accident that in the 2020 reelection campaign of Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, which he handily won, the only two quasi-competitive Democrats both were black: one (Antoine Pierce) a novelty candidate supported by the state’s only black and Democrat member of Congress, outgoing Rep. Cedric Richmond and the other the most leftist ever to draw the party’s official endorsement, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, who made Fields – now a state senator – look positively moderate by comparison.
Perkins getting the nod didn’t surprise as national Democrats have continued to surge leftwards, farther and farther away from the median Louisiana voter. As a result, it also was predictable that Cassidy would double up on the pair.
With the increasing extremism of national Democrats, especially in their insistence that America structurally and systemically is racist, plus the fact that Democrats have steadily receded in their competitiveness in statewide contests, a growing number of black candidates have surfaced to whom having the party win has become less important than asserting their far left agenda and control over party fortunes. They no longer will sit back and sublimate their own ambitions in favor of white candidates.
This has culminated in the recent entrance of black Democrat activist Gary Chambers to challenge GOP Sen. John Kennedy, even though a number of white past Democrat powerbrokers had hoped partisan support would coalesce around newcomer white Democrat Luke Mixon as the preferred challenger. Having finished a close third in the race to succeed Richmond by preaching a woke platform that appeals to the growing black Democrat powerbroker segment of the party who control the ever-growing black portion of the party and also appealing to crossover support from white extreme liberals, Chambers will outpoll Mixon come November.
This phenomenon likely puts the final nail into the coffin of state Democrats wining statewide elections.
They have tried to train blacks to vote only for Democrats, but usually for whites. But as the activists have realized they now call the tune because of black party numbers, and knowing the party has no real chance of winning, they won’t let what little spoils remain go to serve the interests of white activists achieved by denying black candidates full party support. Outnumbered, white activists will have to fall in line to get any scraps in local elections where without a real effort by black powerbrokers white Democrats would lose to Republicans.
As a result, expect blacks to dominate among major Democrat statewide candidates from now on. And also expect Edwards to be the last Democrat to win statewide for some time to come.