Put a fork in the Louisiana Democratic coalition. Rep. Bobby Jindal’s (R) historic 54 percent victory on Saturday might seem like the triumph of a gifted legislator, or a repudiation of Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s (D) tenure, but the truth is that his accession marks the end of an era. The fragile Democratic coalition of urban blacks, poor Protestant whites and Catholic Cajuns that ruled Louisiana for most of the 20th century has probably collapsed for good.
Rural whites were the first to go, abandoning Democrats across the South in the 1990s. That shift was evident by 2000, when George W. Bush won Louisiana despite Bill Clinton carrying it twice. In 2004, Bush routed John Kerry by 15 points, but more importantly, Louisiana elected its first Republican to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction. Sen. David Vitter only took 50 plus one, but it was a landmark victory.
Cajuns have remained somewhat loyal, having sent fellow Acadian Blanco to the governor’s mansion in 2003. But as the go-to Almanac of American Politics notes, “Cajuns tend to mull it over.” In other words, they’ll support a son of the bayou like Rep. Charlie Melancon (D), but they also voted for Bush. (Melancon is also a natural for his district and has one of the best and brightest staffs on Capitol Hill).
In 2005, the statewide Democratic coalition was dealt its final blow. Katrina wiped out nearly half the Crescent City and dispersed hundreds of thousands of reliably Democratic votes. The New Orleans Times-Picayune noted in its analysis today that the number of votes cast in the city dropped off nearly 40 percent from 2003 to 2007.
It’s clear that Katrina broke backbone of the Democratic coalition and tipped the scales indefinitely to the Republicans’ favor. It’s unclear if the scales will tip back anytime soon. Jindal will oversee the redistricting process in 2011. Democrats still control a solid majority of the state House and state Senate, so they can insulate themselves.
But Louisiana is sure to lose one seat in 2012 — the only non-Rust Belt state to do so. Michael Barone noted in a recent National Journal article, “The Voting Rights Act compels the Legislature to create at least one majority-black district,” and that’s going to be a corridor connecting New Orleans to Baton Rouge. He adds, “Cajun country Democrat Charlie Melancon will probably find a way to hold on.”
So, the Democrats will probably retain their two seats in Louisiana’s seven-seat (soon to be six) congressional delegation. But the days of the Huey Long Democratic machine are over. The Almanac notes, “Louisiana, having outgrown the Longs and Edwin Edwards, is embarked on a politics of uncertain direction.” That direction is unlikely to include the Democratic machine of old.
Now, on to the maps. Here’s a 2003 Louisiana election results map, the year Blanco won in a run-off against Jindal. Note how she cleaned up in most of the state (even the conservative, white North):
MORE JINDAL COMMENTARY:
- Patrick Ruffini, on Jindal’s election: “Epic… historic… ginormous are the words that come easiest to mind tonight.”
- Erick at Red State notes that its “a staunchly southern state electing a guy who is a minority to the Governor’s Mansion as a Republican.”
UPDATE: Here’s a 2007 Louisiana election results map, compliments of GCR & Associates via Patterico’s Pontifications. Jindal won every single parish minus four. We apologize for the blurriness. Click on the map for a clearer image: