NOLA News Questions Possibility Of LA Becoming A 2 Party State
NEW ORLEANS (Verite News) - Louisiana is currently a solidly red state.
It has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000. Both of the state’s U.S. senators have been Republicans since 2015, and of the six-member U.S. House delegation, only one is a Democrat. In the state Legislature, the Republicans consistently control well more than 60% of the seats in both houses. A Democrat does reside in the governor’s mansion; however, he is an outlier in the sense he is a conservative Democrat. He is an opponent of abortion rights, is the son of a well-known rural sheriff, and a former Army Ranger.
The Louisiana Democratic Party has fallen on hard times in recent years. Many political commentators argue that in order for our political system to work efficiently, we need a robust two-party system where each party serves as a check and balance on the other. Is it possible for Louisiana to return to being a two-party state? First, we need to look at some history.
Up until the 1970s, Louisiana was basically a one-party state controlled by the Democrats. This was true of all the Southern states. All of the statewide offices were controlled by Democrats. They also held supermajorities in the Legislature. Republicans only controlled a few suburban legislative districts.
This began to change with the election of Republican Dave Treen as governor in 1980. The state then went through a period where Republicans gradually increased their numbers. From about 1990 to around 2015 or so, Louisiana was a two-party state, where both parties could compete. Since 2015, with the exception of the current governor, the Republican Party has been ascendant. This pattern was repeated, to varying degrees, in all Southern states.
The ideological reasons that Southern voters stopped voting Democratic are varied depending on the voter, however, it usually deals with a general feeling that the national Democratic Party was drifting too far left on traditional cultural issues. These issues include: civil rights legislation, race relations, affirmative action, abortion, LGBT rights, church v. state issues, and gun rights, among others. While the ideological reasons are complex, the demographic reasons are simple: The decline of Democratic Party influence in the South was caused by the exodus of white voters. In the bipartisan period between 1990 and 2015, Democrats could depend on about 40% of the white vote. They would combine that with about 90% of the Black vote to win elections.
While the Black vote has remained stable for Democrats, the white vote has dropped sharply. In his reelection, Governor John Bel Edwards received 33% of the white vote and 95% of the Black vote. However, Edwards is an outlier. Most Democrats max out their white vote in the high 20s, not enough to win a statewide election.
This pattern is repeated in all states in the Deep South, with the exception of one: Georgia. In 2020 Joe Biden won Georgia, and two Democratic US Senators were elected. So, what is the secret of Georgia? It’s not simply the number of Black voters. Georgia is 32% Black. But Louisiana is roughly the same at 33% Black. Mississippi is a whopping 39% Black and has less luck electing Democrats than Louisiana.
The secret sauce for electing Democrats in Georgia is college-educated whites. Nationwide, while the rate varies by state, college-educated white voters register as Democrats at higher rates than non-college-educated white voters. Black voters register Democratic at the same rate regardless of education level.
Georgia has more college graduates than any other Deep South state. According to U.S. Census data, college graduates make up about 32% of the Georgia adult population. College graduates make up about 25% of Louisiana adults. Georgia also can attract a higher proportion of liberal Democrats from the Northeast and West Coast, because the city of Atlanta is headquarters for 12 Fortune 500 companies. According to New York Times exit polling, in 2020, Joe Biden received about 30% of the white vote in Georgia. He combined that with about 90% of the Black vote to win the state by less than a point. Biden also received close to 90% of the Black vote in Louisiana, but only 22% of the white vote. He lost the state.
History teaches us that migrations between states cause voting patterns to change over time. We don’t know how Louisiana voters will vote 20 years from now. However, for the short term, unless the Democratic Party can figure out how to attract more college graduates to the area, Louisiana will remain a red state.