Updating statistics that have appeared in this space on several occasions, it shows the sea change as the state hurtles towards a Republican registration plurality for the first time in recorded history. It repeats that Republicans, through a series of special elections and party switches, gained a majority in the state House in 2010 and in the state Senate in 2011, for the first time since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
Those majorities increased in 2011 and stayed essentially locked in as a result of the 2015 elections. In 2011, for the first time, Republicans swept all six statewide elected offices. As recently as 2003 the GOP held just one of those. It captured one Senate seat in 2004, then the other in 2014. And in the past few years, the GOP gained decisive majorities on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Supreme Court, and three of five members on the Public Service Commission.
One measure political scientists use to gauge competitiveness is a standard that a contest’s results have less than a ten-point gap between winner and runner-up. By that measure, since 2008 concerning multi-party competition, of the 19 such statewide contests, Democrats have been competitive in just one – Edwards’ win. Nor were Democrats competitive in the two presidential elections in that period, according to this definition.
Since 2013, its trend of losing registrants has persisted while GOP gains have accelerated. From the 2008 elections to then, Democrats have dropped over 139,000 while Republicans gained 77,000, with no party/other voters’ numbers increasing about 78,000. From the end of 2013 to three years later, Democrats lost 81,000 while Republicans picked up 89,000 and no party/other gained 61,000. Blacks, who comprise about a third of Louisiana’s population, now significantly claim majority status in the party.
At the end of2010, blacks had become a plurality of party registrants. By the end of 2013, they lost 2,000 to the rolls as Democrats, but a drop of nearly 100,000 whites gave them a party majority. By the end of last year, another nearly 100,000 whites had fled the party, with black registration totals ticked up by about 6,000, which now leaves almost 180,000 more blacks than whites registered as Democrats, or a black majority of 55 percent. Thus Democrats, who at the end of 2010 had a slim majority of registrants statewide, saw that fall to over 47 percent in 2013 and now around 43 percent today.
Meanwhile, the GOP has gone from 26 percent to 28 percent and now 30 percent.No amount of optimism from Edwards’ win under fluke circumstances, to a Virginia gubernatorial win in a swing state, to a fluke narrow win in an Alabama special Senate election, can sugarcoat Democrats’ deteriorating Louisiana situation. Nothing has changed as to the reason why: the party stubbornly adheres to a far-left agenda much more in common with national Democrats and refuses to move towards the center.
Edwards’ policy-making agenda makes the case. He continues to pitch permanent tax increases that leaves inflated government intact and keeps up the drumbeat on a host of extremist preferences, such as increasing the minimum wage and alleged wage “equity.” He acts as the vanguard of the party, promoting a program which might please his base but which the center-right electorate of Louisiana rejects. In a way, Edwards’ freak win permitted Louisiana Democrats to avoid the truth of the electoral problems they made for themselves.
Unless he tacks towards the center in the next two years, he cannot be favored for reelection. With elections for other offices holding to form and his defeat, that would give Democrats exactly 5 of 27 state executive and judicial offices (both single and multiple). They would have just one of eight national offices, should 2018 hold to form. Having currently 20 percent of such offices is a disastrous performance. And the longer Democrats stay in denial about how out-of-synch they are with the Louisiana public and do nothing to change that, the more they certainly will become a permanent minority party.