Look at where the Louisiana Democratic Party was in 2004. We had a Democratic Governor. We had two Democratic Senators. We had a Democratic Lt. Governor. We had a Democratic Attorney General. The party controlled the legislature. What went wrong?
One of those Democratic Senators, the senior one, decided to not run for reelection. David Vitter ran and could run on the sentiment that he would support the incumbent President George W. Bush. This was a blow to the state party but it was not the turning point.
The turning point was the LA-01 election. LA-01 has always been a conservative district. It would have been hard for any of the candidates, myself included, to have defeated Bobby Jindal. So the Democratic Party decided to stay out of that race. But to me, that was the beginning of the end. By doing so, they not only allowed Bobby Jindal to win without a fight, but it allowed him to spin his version of the story on many issues without any sort of challenge to his claims. It also allowed him to take the funds he should have spent in Louisiana and spread it around the country to gain whatever influence he could. As such, he was elected president of his freshman class.
Building on his 2004 victory, the State Democratic Party (knowing that Bobby Jindal would likely be running for Governor again in 2007) chose to again sit out of this election. This allowed Bobby Jindal to establish more lies like the one that he secured more funds from offshore oil revenues (Landrieu’s bill was the one that did that) and that he supported ethics (he voted to weaken House ethics standards during the Tom Delay scandal). But even more than that, Bobby Jindal was able to do something else. Since the Democratic Party refused to force Jindal to spend money within the district he was running in, he was able to spend money statewide to “fund raise”.
Why do I put “fund raise” in quotes? Well, he sent out fliers to request money from around the State of Louisiana using the platform of “ethics reform” as the reason why Bobby Jindal should be re-elected. He was basically establishing himself statewide to position himself for his run for Governor on a platform of ethics reform. His own campaign even stated that he was running from Kentwood to Ruston and everywhere in between. Well, most of the area between Kentwood and Ruston is not in LA-01.
Now comes 2007. Bobby Jindal runs for governor, having 2 election cycles of media coverage with no Democratic Party challenge to his claims. Basically, people believed everything Bobby Jindal had to say when it came to his past. So there was no reason for the voters to doubt him because the Louisiana Democratic Party just sat back and let Jindal establish his story as being the truth.
Then came the big gaffe of the election for the Democratic Party. They attacked Bobby Jindal and his religious writings. Now, the Democratic Party could very well have hit a home run with the website and commercials. However, they didn’t even accurately state what Jindal wrote in his writings. This allowed Jindal to claim what the party was saying was untrue and then run advertisements stating that he was a “Born Again Christian” in North Louisiana (even though he is a Catholic).
Now, not only has the Louisiana Democratic Party enabled Jindal to establish the narrative, it also discredited itself with the “Jindal on Religion” ad. Jindal had all the political capital and was able to cash in. Other state offices fell to Republicans. Both houses fell to the Republican party via election victories or party switches.
So, how does the Louisiana Democratic Party turn itself around? Well, it cannot do so operating in the way that it has been operating, that is for sure. Some fixes I see include:
- Do a better job fighting the rhetoric. Challenge every false claim by Jindal and others.
- Help out all candidates who qualify as a Democrat. Give them access to the voter list without question.
- Invite all candidates who qualify as Democrats to all endorsement meetings.
- Do not desperately support just anyone because they have a D behind their name. Many Democrats fell in line behind Hollis because she declared early. But she was just a Jindal-lite.
We are Democrats for a reason. Democrats and independents need a reason to vote for the candidates representing our party. Does that mean we oppose candidates who are not perfect? Absolutely not. But there has to be a point where the candidate is just too conservative.
- Work on improving get out the vote measures and implement precinct captains in every single precinct in this state. I know for a fact that we do not do that now. Why? Because I do not know who mine is.
This is not an exhaustive list. There is much more that can be done to help improve the state. But it is pretty much safe to say that if we havn’t hit bottom we are fairly close. It is time to start moving back up.