Man Without Qualities

Monday, September 12, 2005

Louisiana Democratic Party: Swept Away (By an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August)

Why is Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu so mad that she's threatened to "punch" the president (a possible federal crime)? Why is Democratic National Committee head Howard Dean screaming "racism" in a crowed emergency zone? And why is Louisiana Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco so emotionally upset that she refused to sign over Louisiana National Guard control to the federal government and her office refused to return calls from the White House, resulting in her not knowing that Bush was coming to her home town for a second visit until told by reporters? Yes, yes, there's lots of finger pointing going on and lots of agendas in play. But doesn't it all seem a bit, well, unusually emotional on the Democratic side in Louisiana these days - even for a big emergency? Why is that?

Well, this Financial Times article may help explain the fury:

As the flood waters gradually recede in New Orleans, local Democrats are starting to worry that the storm may have washed away their strongest political base in the state. .... The key to the Democrats' strong position in the state has been the black community of New Orleans. If many choose not to return, local Democrats fear, their natural majority in state politics could be swept away. ...

Jim Nickel, the former chairman of the Democrat party in the state, said that the shift of population out of New Orleans could be a problem for the party if many African Americans settle elsewhere. "It would not take a large shift of population out of New Orleans to tilt the political balance in favour of the Republican party ... New Orleans has been a veritable ATM of votes for the Democrat party". ....

Many poorer blacks were living in state-subsidised housing that may not be rebuilt for several years, explains Jim Brown, a former Democrat state senator and secretary of state for Louisiana. "By then they will most likely have got settled elsewhere," he says. "Unless they have strong family ties, there may not be much incentive to come back. Working as a taxi driver or a hotel cleaner in Detroit is much the same as doing the same job in New Orleans.".....

The state is divided into three broad electoral areas. The white Baptists in the north have tended to be solidly Republican, while the Cajun Catholics in the south-western Arcadia area have traditionally been more open to voting for the Democrats. The black vote in New Orleans has helped the Democrats carry the state.....

But the margin of [Democratic] victory has been diminishing. In 2003 Governor Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat who is up for re-election in 2007, won by 52 per cent - a majority of about 50,000 votes compared with 48 per cent for Bobby Jindal, the Republican candidate. The state also has its first Republican US senator since the 1870s in David Vitter..... "This certainly increases the chance that Louisiana could soon have another Republican governor," says Mr Brown, the former Democrat senator.
Sad, that. Big hurricane comes to town and washes away one's ATM of votes. All the Democrats lose their jobs even if the federal government gets most of the blame for problems in the relief effort. What Louisiana voter gets back to town and when in the hands of the Republican administration. Makes sense that all those Democrats are upset. Really upset.

Even Hillary Clinton should be upset - Bill carried Louisiana both times.

UPDATE: One wonders what the reactions of Louisiana Democrats and Senator Clinton were to Bill Clinton's Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's suggesting in the New York Times that New Orleans be rebuilt only as an island surrounded by miles of open water. That is, miles of open water covering miles of formerly dry land once inhabited by hundreds of thousands of Democrats.

That's quite a vision you've got there, Mr. Babbitt!

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