Let's Talk Sense....

Sunday, December 8, 2002 Volume XXVII, No. 7
Roswell, New Mexico
Readership, this date: 14,662

It's Louisiana Party Unity, Stupid

In this issue:

Missing History in Lousiana

Louisiana State GOP Party Dynamics: The Unknown Factor
The Congressional Runoff---Autopsy of a Louisiana Disaster
What should happen to those who caused the loss?
And your comments...
The Typical Error in Trying to Understand Parties
The National Mood and Louisiana: Were we wrong about that?
Historical Note Revisited


It's Party Unity, Stupid

Well, we missed the call. It happens. Let's talk sense about what went wrong.

Missing History in Louisiana

Let's start with the biggest variable that turned out to have by far the greatest effect on the outcome. We begin with pertinent extracts from our last issue, in which we did in fact leave you with this ominous (in retrospect) warning:

"GOP State Party Dynamics: The Unknown Factor"(LTS...December 5, 2002)

"There is one other factor in play however, which could affect the outcome of the race: the attitude of the also-rans in the Republican Primary. We have heard conflicting reports about whether John Cooksey and Tony Perkins were going to support Suzanne Terrell, and ask their supporters to do the same.

"It is also reported that Republican Governor Mike Foster is not supporting Terrell, or at least is declining to endorse her.

"This type of intra-party squabbling is the one factor that can overcome every other...advantage a candidate may have going for her. If these kinds of negatives are too strong, then these Republicans can in fact defeat Ms. Terrell. Though why they would want to is difficult to understand."

Sure enough, on election night Michael Barone, the foremost authority in American psephology, referred to the staggering degree of disunity among Louisiana Republicans. As alluded to above, we did not know just how great the rumblings were. Not only did Louisiana Republican mucky mucks lose the senate race, they managed to give away an easy congressional win.

The Congressional Runoff---Autopsy of a Louisiana disaster

There was one other congressional runoff in Louisiana Saturday. We had not even bothered to write about it because we believed it was a non-story. Here is what had happened on November 5 in the 5th Congressional District:

Rodney Alexander (D) 52,952 (28.7%)
Lee Fletcher (R) 45,278 (24.5%)
other Republicans (R) 80,689 (43.7%)
other Democrats (D) 4,595 ( 2.5%)
Independents (O) 1,145 ( 0.6%)

Put another way: Republican candidates 125,967 (68.2%)
Democrat candidates 57,547 (31.2%)
All others 1,145 ( .6%)

It was a situaton that screamed "Republican Landslide in the Making." Nothing surprising there. After all, that was the way the district was drawn during the redistricting process last year. Yet, when the votes were tallied Saturday night, here is what happened:

Alexander (D) 85,720
Fletcher (R) 85,202

The Louisiana GOP managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, by a margin of 518 votes. Republicans frittered away a 37-point advantage, and a staggering 68,000-vote margin. They did so because the Republican also-rans put themselves above philosophy, their state and their country. As Barone noted, the "bitterness" ran deep.

In parish after parish, where Republicans had done well in the primary, but where the second or third place finisher overall had carried that particular parish, disaster loomed on the horizon for the runoff.

I will leave you with just two examples, examples that are typical of what took place in more than half of Louisiana's 64 parishes where similar results (drastic vote-switching) occurred.

In Avoyelles Parish, in the primary Republicans led 7,017 to 3,575, almost 2 to 1. In the runoff Saturday, it was the Democrat Alexander winning 6,343 - 4,531---from a winning margin of 3,442 to a losing margin of 1,812, a turnaround of 5,254 votes in a parish that only cast a little over 10,000 votes. The primary winner had been Clyde C. Holloway, not the Republican nominee, Lee Fletcher. And Holloway withheld his support.

In Evangeline Parish, it had been 2,849 - 686 a month ago, but on Saturday, though the GOP still won, it was by a mere 413 votes, instead of the whopping 2,165- vote margin they had rung up just a month earlier. Again, the primary winner was Holloway.

And there was spillover in Evangeline in the senate race where the GOP had enjoyed a similar advantage earlier, but actually lost the parish in the runoff. In both instances the non-support, or back-handed endorsements" by primary losers was the key blow. It sent powerful signals to Republican voters.

This occurred in more than 35 parishes throughout the state.

This is nothing short of amazing. Of course it took an incredibly amazing effort on the part of Republicans to manage to lose this seat. To their lasting discredit, the losers amazingly accomplished what they wanted: the guy, or gal, who beat them got beat. The losing Republican got their followers to either stay home in droves or switch in large numbers to the Democrat.

The keys to the defeat of Suzanne Haik Terrell are found in the Louisiana 5th Congressional District, partly directly in the numbers from that district, and partly from the attitudes prevalent there.

In the Senate race there was far less margin of error to work with, almost none in fact, so any reluctance on the party of Cooksey, Perkins and Governor Foster to support a fellow Republican had the potential to be devastating. And it was.

In addition to John Cooksey and Tony Perkins, along with Governor Mike Foster, all of whom worked to cause their fellow Republican to lose the senate race, we must add GOP State Senator Robert J. Barham and Republican Clyde C. Holloway, a former congressman, both of whose lack of cooperation was pivotal in the shocking upset loss of the house race.

What should happen to those who caused the Loss?

It is common for the White House or the Republican National Committee to give losing candidates for high office a job in the administration. A great senator, highly qualified, like say, Ashcroft, or Hutchinson, or a challenger like Thune, might get picked to be in the cabinet, or for some other high post.

We can only pray that none of these losers with a bad attitude in Louisiana will be picked. (Clearly we are not talking about Terrell or Fletcher.) If Cooksey, Perkins, Barham or Holloway are ever given a high-ranking political appointment it will send the wrong message to conservatives all over the country.


And Your Comments...

No doubt we will hear from some who will tell us, "No, wait, so-and-so came out at the end and endorsed her (or him)." (We don't know if they did or not, that is not the point.) Even if they did it was at best a double message, a back-handed kind of support, probably accompanied by the damning-with-faint-praise remarks so typical of the genre of reluctant support. When about 48 hours have gone by after a primary, it is pretty much too late to matter. Even if someone ends up "endorsing" the nominee, as far as his or her followers are concerned they really didn't do it.

As always, we received many comments about our last issue. Much of what we got had to do with that very same party unity issue:

"...I think there are candidates who recognize that their party's winning candidate is not the best person for the job, and therefore will not support him or her. As they see it...their first duty is to the PEOPLE, not the party, and so it would be both harsh and wrong to suggest that those individuals' decisions are only about themselves.

"As an example, what if I ran for office as a Christian, Pro-Life, Pro-Family Republican but was beaten in a primary by a pro-abortion candidate who was an atheist and whom I knew to be secretly supportive of various aspects of the homosexual agenda? If I knew that the winning Democratic candidate was also Christian/Pro-Life/Pro-Family, I would have a VERY tough time enthusiastically endorsing and/or supporting my party's candidate only because he was my party's candidate. In fact, I wouldn't and couldn't."

N. B., Albuquerque, NM

Well, as it happens we have written about this extensively. To answer Mr. B. of Albuquerque we would say:

"Of course there is the "David Duke" exception. (Ironic that we are talking about Louisiana.) In fact there are exceptions far less drastic. If someone wins a Republican nomination, but is completely opposed to the principles of the party, or her views on race, economic or social issues, or stance on other matters are totally at odds with those of the Republican Party, one not only should not support the person, but may have to actively support his or her opponents. The fact is that this is rarely the case. In most instances the "divided party" phenomenon is personality-driven, and is not based on issues or philosophy.

In fact we would challenge Mr. B. to show us even one case where the scenario he has outlined has actually been found.

The scenario described by the Albuquerque writer was not the case in Louisiana, and other than David Duke in Louisiana in1991, we cannot think of one.

Certainly neither Suzanne Haik Terrell, nor Lee Fletcher, fit the nightmare scenario. Opposition to them, or reluctance to support them was in fact personality driven.

What did Louisiana Republicans get for their efforts? They got a senate where if one party member switches and one dies in an accident of of cancer, they just lost the senate for President Bush. You may say that that is drastic and morbid. So is life.

That is why the whole issue comes back to being about oneself, or being about the country. And the typical Louisiana losing Republican simply doesn't understand that. Typical because the sore-loser phenomenon has dominated political life in the state for decades.

Oh, they can say, "Well, you know Suzanne Haik Terrell ran some tough ads against me." Or, "Lee Fletcher misrepresented himself, I am actually better qualified to be congressman than he is."

LTS... Precept Number 14 is:

"It ain't about him, or her, stupid. What you do or say after you lose an election is about you. Fair, or unfair, right or wrong, if all the votes have been counted, and you have lost, your words and actions simply speak volumes about what you are made of, and not about your opponent."

The Typical Error in Trying to Understand Parties

The writer above commits a very common error that we see in typical voters who are trying to analyze what the major parties are all about.

They make statements like: "I'm for what's best for the country, not the party." (Do they really believe they are the only people who are for that? That there are millions of Americans, and thousands of office-holders who actually favor their party over their own country?)

Or as Mr. B. of Albuquerque said of his fellow voters:

"As they see it...their first duty is to the PEOPLE, not the party..."

He leaves one with the impression that he is for the people first, but that others actually favor their party at the expense of the people. Now the former position is not only noble, but patriotic, logical and the height of good citizenship. The latter is not. It is however, typical of many voters to attribute lesser characteristics to others while retaining the nobler ones for themselves. And people wonder why we have so much negativity in political campaigns.

The problem is one of completely misunderstanding parties, their membership, and why candidates do the things they do. We'll try to explain:

Many observers, such as Mr. B., come to the table with the notion that "the party antedates life experience." That is, that awareness of some kind of "membership" in a party takes place even before an individual begins to think about political issues.

In other words, a 24-year old woman becomes aware one day that she has been a Republican for some time. She doesn't know why. She just believes she is a Republican. She gets involved in party activities, volunteers, and later decides to run for office herself. After getting deeply involved in the party, she gradually develops an understanding of the Republican Party's basic position on a number of issues. She finds she is not completely comfortable with a lot of them, but stays hitched to the party and toes the line. She is blindly faithful to the party and votes for everyone in that party no matter what they do or say, and no matter what she actually believes about America, or about social, economic, or cultural issues.

The problem is it doesn't work that way.

While this may seem illogical even goofy to some, that is the way people talk about the parties all the time. As if there exists some blind allegiance to an abstract, amorphous organization without regard for ideas, philosopy, and goals.

See, people's own ideas, personal experience, as well as the personal beliefs and philosophy developed as a result of those experiences actually are a prelude to choosing to be a member of a political party. People choose to be members of the party that most closely represents them. Parties are repositories of ideas. Nothing more, nothing less. People choose to belong to the party they believe will do things which are best for the country, best for the people. No one chooses to join a party that will be the worst for the people, including themselves.

So it literally makes no sense to say:

"As they see it...their first duty is to the PEOPLE, not the party"

People are in the party to begin with because they believe it is best for the people.

It is the height of self-righteous arrogance to believe you are the only person who wants what is best for the people. While we are Republicans at LTS..., we acknowledge that Democrats believe their ideas are in fact best for the people.

We believe they are wrong. They believe we are.

The whole point is that Holloway and Barham are flat wrong for wanting a liberal to be in Congress just because they can't be, and they are the ONLY conservatives worthy of the job.

Cooksey and Perkins are wrong for wishing a Landrieu re-election, just because they could not be the nominee.

If all the losers are actually in fact conservatives, and they want liberals to win, then there is little doubt that the entire process is merely about them personally, and not about their professed political philosophy or ideology.

We hope Mr. B. from Albuquerque understands this, as well as the score or so of others who made virtually the same point.

The National Mood and Louisiana: Were we wrong about that?

Most factors seem augur well for the Republicans.
Still correct. The national Republicans seemed to do everything right. They put on a full-court press with their whole team. They cannot be faulted.

1. George W. Bush broke an 8-year losing streak in Louisiana in 2000 (ominously though, it must be noted that his win was less impressive than his father's over Dukakis in 1988). The point is valid all the way around. W. is popular still, but not overwhelmingly so----and Louisiana is not trending more strongly to the GOP.

2. Louisiana is marginally to moderately culturally conservative, although it is no Alabama. (There are many demographic reasons for this, but the main point to keep in mind now is that it means that the Republican President could actually possibly lose Louisiana in 2004---depends on circumstances, issues, etc. On the other hand, he cannot possibly lose Alabama.) This point is valid in spades. Louisiana is not Alabama, it is always going to be tough sledding. The GOP could lose this state in 2004 if the right circumstances are not present.

3. Republicans have near parity in what might be called the "national outlook" of the average Louisianan. Combine that with culturally offensive Democrat nominees, Gore for example, and Republicans can score a victory. But put up a Clinton, who is nothing if not the master of southern political charm----evincing cultural, social, and historical commonality with every nuanced phrase, every reversion to regional accent and facial expression----and, well, they might not. In fact they didn't. Either time. (That is the threat a candidate like John Edwards poses in Louisiana, and for different reasons in Florida, Arkansas, and maybe even Virginia---but that is analysis yet to come.) Valid. Landrieu and Breaux are the John Edwards and Clinton of 2002. That and enough disunity did it.

4. The President is popular and he has campaigned personally in Louisiana. Still true. This is a gutsy president who takes risks, and every Louisianan knows that if you take risks you can't hit a dry hole. He is still popular enough. It wasn't him.

5. Louisianans are disposed to favor a strong national defense posture. Still are. But Landrieu worked hard to appear to be a Sam Nunn in drag.

6. They are inclined to be sympathetic to the President's concerns about national security matters in general. They do want homeland security and Landrieu worked hard to triangulate that issue.

7. The President has momentum, and he is asking for help at a critical time in our history. Still does. But it didn't seem as critical. It is, but it didn't seem so.

Democrats, to be sure, have some things going for them:

1. They still maintain a clear structural advantage in Louisiana, something very common in the South----and almost universal now in the Northeast. That is something that grows out of a tradition of strong local Democrat Party organization, habitual, generational voting, local officeholders and so on. Totally valid. A huge part, perhaps the biggest, aside from GOP disunity, for their win.

2. There is the dynamic of the President facing a popular homestate senator on as a counterpart on the campaign trail. Not Landrieu, but John Breaux, who is working hard for his fellow Democrat. The Breaux factor did turn out to be important, but would not have been enough on its own.

In fact, given the exaggerated analysis by most of the media (remember our guarded view of the notion of a "mandate") the President and the Republicans are believed to have such a distinct psychological advantage right now, a victory for Landrieu would be played as a major setback. The GOP pretty much has to win this one.

Very true. It is now being played as a major setback. In historical terms, given all we have stated about this state and the difficulty of operating there ( 0 for 120 years), it is grossly unfair for this to be seen as a big loss. But just as we said it would be, it is being treated that way.

We still maintain the November 5 election yielded no mandate, but rather a charge to keep governing the way the president has: The combination of boldness of vision, with caution, and wisdom in execution. That's all he has. That's all he needs. He knows it, and his key advisors know it. That is about the most you can hope for in a "49% Nation."

Whether the pundits know it or not, that is likely all he, or anyone else, will get for the next 12 to 16 years.

Historical Note Revisited
Louisiana Historical note, revisited:

William Pitt Kellogg's record remains intact. Senator Kellogg left office in March of 1883, and he was the last Republican to represent Louisiana in the US Senate. He still is. (And no---to the hundreds of you who asked---he was not black. Although those questions reflect a good knowledge of American history. Quite a number of southern Republican elected officials 120 years ago were in fact black. Mr. Kellogg was a native of Vermont whose political career was developed in Illinois.)