Not only have the Democrats suffered a loss of registered voters, but the party is now a minority in the Louisiana Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. In the late 1970’s, there were only a handful of Republicans in the legislature, but today, the GOP has a majority in both houses.
Not long ago, Louisiana Republicans joked that there numbers were so few they could fit “in a phone booth.” Today, the GOP dominates Louisiana politics. How times have changed! Over time, Louisiana voters realized that the national Democratic Party was too liberal and did not represent the state’s conservative values.
Another key factor involved the adoption of the state’s open primary system, which allowed people to vote in any election regardless of party affiliation. During the party’s heyday, all major candidates and elected officials were Democrats. At that time there were party primaries and voters had little choice but to register Democrat if they wanted to play a meaningful role in the major elections. Ironically, the open primary, championed by then staunch Democrat Governor Edwin Edwards helped end the party’s dominance in the state.
Not only have voters been leaving the Democratic Party, but many of older voters still in the party are ideologically conservative who regularly vote Republican. All of these factors combined make for a very troubling predicament for the Democratic Party in Louisiana.
As late as 2006, almost all Louisiana statewide elected officials were Democrats. Just a few years later, the only Democrat statewide elected official is U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and she will have a difficult time retaining her seat in the next election.
With the liberal President Barack Obama as the leader of the party, the Louisiana Democratic Party will continue to decline. This election season will be particularly difficult for Louisiana Democrats. They have no major candidates to challenge the Republicans who hold the key statewide offices. So the only real competition will come from within the Republican Party.
It is a new day in Louisiana politics and for the foreseeable future; the Republican Party will be firmly in control. The party’s long struggle for power and the lonely days in the phone booth are now nothing but distant memories.