In the end, Mary Landrieu actually did a little better than expected. With polls showing her down as many as 26 points to Bill Cassidy less than a week prior to Election Day, the final 56-44 result in Cassidy’s favor almost reads as a moral victory on her part.
But U.S. Senate seats are not won on moral victories, and thus Saturday marks the end of Landrieu’s eighteen-year stint representing Louisiana on Capitol Hill. Many wags are calling it the end of an era—namely, that of the Southern Democrat as a mainstream political entity. With Landrieu’s loss, there is no longer a viable Democratic Party anywhere in the Deep South with the apparent capability to win a statewide race of any major importance or capture a majority of a state legislative body. Of former Confederate states, Democrats now hold Senate seats only in Virginia and Florida.
Freed from having to appeal to voters, the Left will no longer need to hold its tongue about the retrograde backwardness it perceives among Southern electorates, or the trailer-trash racism that it insists drives Southern political opposition to the president’s agenda. For instance, witness this unhinged Facebook rant from Robert Reich, the execrable Clinton administration political hack now offering himself up as a keyboard commando:
Mary Landrieu’s loss in yesterday’s senate run-off election in Louisiana gives the deep South entirely to Republicans for the first time in history. From Texas through the Carolinas, the GOP now controls every senate seat, every governorship, and every state legislature. The Republican party began its life before the Civil War as the party that took on slavery, leaving the deep South to what became the Democratic party. Now, the role-reversal is complete.
But whether called Democrats or, increasingly since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans, the sad fact is southern white politics has been dominated by hidebound racists seeking to suppress the votes of African-Americans.
Interestingly enough, one of the things that doomed Landrieu’s candidacy was her asserting that President Obama’s troubles with Louisiana voters arise from Southern racism—and then doubling down by saying that her own electoral troubles stem from Southern sexism, which is a peculiar charge since she won a string of elections as a female officeholder in Louisiana dating back to 1979.
Of course, we’re used to this kind of talk by now, and it isn’t limited to anti-Southern sentiment. Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to an enlightened statist ideology must clearly suffer from racism, sexism, or some phobia or other. But the South is a perfect target for the Left’s vitriol. There are sour grapes over the Democrats’ loss of the region. There is the Southern commitment to economic growth, which has both intensified under Republican control and produced significant results. And there is the history of racial strife the region has fought for decades to overcome.
And so we get this ceaseless calumny about the Goldwater and Nixon “Southern Strategy” to explain how the evil Republicans were able to steal away all the Klan and White Citizens Council members who used to vote Democrat. But the voters who were, say, thirty-five years old in 1964 would be eighty-five this year, awfully long in the tooth to be a pivotal force against Landrieu. Who knew that Cajun and low-country cuisine, so loaded with the trans-fats and sugar our nanny-state betters seek to keep from us, would produce such longevity in its consumers.
It’s also a bit inconvenient for the narrative that the transformation completed with Landrieu’s defeat took as long as it did. Landrieu, after all, was first elected in Louisiana in 1996, some twenty-eight years after the inception of the “Southern Strategy.” The Pelican State elected a Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, in 2003, some thirty-five years after the Republicans supposedly cracked the code on racist voters. It’s interesting, too, that supposedly die-hard racist Louisiana Republicans would be so enthusiastic about Bobby Jindal, the dark-skinned son of an immigrant from India.
Those on the Left simply cannot let themselves consider that perhaps what has produced Republican dominance is the failure of Democratic governance—Blanco’s incompetence, Landrieu’s being out of step with her constituents, the state party’s hopeless corruption.
Or look at the results of Democratic policies. Four years ago, the St. Louis Fed conducted a survey of economic data from fourteen cities around the country, which included metrics indicating the progress of black Americans vis-à-vis their white counterparts. In 1970 the weekly wages earned by black males in Houston were 65 percent of their white counterparts. By 2000, that number had risen to 72 percent, even as the overall standard of living in Houston was improving ahead of the nation as a whole. In Atlanta, the gains were even more pronounced—from 62 percent to 78. In New Orleans, 63 percent to 75. In Memphis, 63 percent to 78.
Compare those numbers to those for Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and Midwest. Chicago? Weekly wages for black males fell from 75 percent of whites in 1970 to 74 percent in 2000. Detroit? From 81 to 78. In Cleveland, from 76 to 77. Philadelphia went from 79 to 77. New York saw an improvement, but a slight one, from 75 to 78.
If Republicans executing the racist Southern Strategy really sought to keep black folks down, why is it that so much educational attainment and economic advancement, for those engaged in work, was taking place in the black community while the GOP was gaining influence in statehouses?
There is no good answer to this question, of course, other than that Reich’s narrative—and Landrieu’s—holds no water. It is a lie, and an easily disproved one at that. The South is increasingly successful because it is increasingly Republican, and Democrat-held areas like Detroit, Chicago, and the now-Sandinista-controlled New York City, are increasingly disastrous.
None of which will stop Reich and others like him. But the annihilation of the Southern Democrats this fall coincided with ugly losses elsewhere in the country, so perhaps soon we’ll see leftist bigotry against other regions as well.