First posted at Daily Kingfish, a Louisiana political blog started by two SSP members from Louisiana.
This election cycle could not be more frustrating and confusing, and I hope I am the only one who is already exhausted. But at least our state Party has not stacked the deck in favor of one candidate who has a vague campaign message full of platitudes with no solutions and no unifying theme, unless an identity suspended in quotation marks, “Bobby,” constitutes a theme. To me it appears to be a floating signifier, a mere vocalization that refers to no mental concepts and to no objects that exist in the tangible world. Republican bloggers must be really bored with the rehashed and revisited rhetoric of 2003 with all the same tropes of Democratic corruption and all the same idle crowing about the wonderful ideas ready to spring from the intelligent mind of “Bobby,” as if he were a modern day Zeus. How many times can a blogger type, “It is not who you know; it is what you know?” How many times can one beg readers “not to vote for ideology but for competence?” How many times does one have to avoid discussing the legislative record of someone who mindlessly voted for the national GOP’s disastrous policies 97% of the time? How many times can one use the same sheet of toilet paper?
Because Ryan has already penned a diary on Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, I will deal with the rhetoric surrounding the latest Democratic candidate to announce: Walter Boasso, former Republican but now Democratic state Senator from Arabi, St. Bernard Parish.
Louisiana politics is never boring, and this cycle will be no exception. So the Southern Strategy is ready to enter phase 4 and swallow Louisiana once and for all. Democrats, the LCRM claims, will lose seats or be pressured to switch parties, and “Bobby” will be rewarded with a Republican majority in the state House on the day of his coronation, a ceremony to be funded with the precious budget surplus the Republicans ostensibly want to protect. Republican realignment, we are told, is dawning over the horizon. But how does this square with the novelty of a Republican state Senator in a Deep South state switching to the Democratic Party? Boasso’s move is somewhat anomalous, and if one chooses to think about this phenomenon historically, it may signal the obsolescence of the 40 year effort of the Republican Party to colonize the South. And Boasso may be in good hands. For on the other end of the South, we have a new Democratic US Senator in Virginia named Jim Webb, who switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party last year, when he won his Senate race by a nailbiting 7,000 votes.
So Boasso’s switch may have a broader significance lost on those who are focused on the empirical and on the partisan and not on the historical. Do not expect LSU – Shreveport Political Science Professor Jeffery Sadow to engage in such an abstract mode of thinking, for that may require some thought and effort. But to return to the point of this essay, will Boasso exploit it? Will Boasso use his party switch to his advantage and to the advantage of the Louisiana Democratic Party? Is his switch a harbinger for something much larger than himself?
According to Boasso,
[T]oday I have rejoined the Democratic Party because [sic] I believe that running as a Democrat will give me the best opportunity to push an agenda for change and reform. The people of Louisiana, regardless of party affiliation, are in search of a leader, and are [sic] eager to stand side by side with someone willing to challenge the establishment and reform our state.
An interesting transvaluation of Republican tropes: reform, change and leadership are now in the purview of the Democratic Party, and the values of the silent majority are to be found underneath the Democratic umbrella, not the dysfunctional, slipshod apparatus brandished by the Republicans. And state Democratic Party Chairman Chris Whittington is right there in Boasso’s big tent. Responding to a question about Boasso’s party switch, Whittington quips, “The more the merrier.” Boasso continues:
The political deal makers have run this state for too long at the expense of so many of our people who need affordable healthcare, quality education and the opportunity to secure a good paying job. I will not be silenced by the status quo or by those unwilling to embrace a new direction for our state. The challenges are too large and [sic] we have no time to waste.
Now this is a powerful paragraph. Corruption and cronyism are placed squarely on the lap of the Republican Party, as are inflexibility, the status quo and useless dilatory tactics, a coded phrase that can be translated to mean inefficient government that enjoys wasting time.
These are the words of a fighter, and Boasso is not taking any prisoners. This must have grated on state Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere’s nerves. And Villere’s response?
Some politicians switch parties because of philosophy and principle. … Walter has made it clear that he is just the opposite. He’s switching because he hasn’t been successful as a Republican candidate.
This is a petty response more befitting a schoolyard bully than a Party Chairman who locked a credible candidate named Walter Boasso out of the political process. Actually, it does befit Roger Villere, for he is a schoolyard bully. But if Villere desires to discuss principle and philosophy, let us discuss the many southern Democrats who switched to the Republican Party during the last three decades of the twentieth century as a result of their opposition to Civil Rights legislation. Let us discuss the southern Republican Party’s use of coded and overt racism to increase white, Republican turnout in close elections. Let us discuss the southern Republican Party’s roots in figures such as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. And let us discuss some of its more recent incarnations, George “Macaca” Allen, David Duke and LSU – Shreveport Professor Jeffrey Sadow, who claims Boasso “is even more off the reservation than Campbell.” If Boasso is the opposite of those who adhere to racist principles and philosophies, I am more than ready to embrace his candidacy.
But notice what else Boasso mentions in this paragraph: Boasso switched to the Democratic Party, as Boasso hopes to address the problems of healthcare, education and un(der)employment. This is not your typical Republican menu of wedge issues with “family values,” guns and tax breaks as your main entrées and a gratuitous jab at the Landrieus as the lagniappe; this to me reads as the domestic agenda of a Democratic candidate. Although I am still awaiting the specifics, I am impressed with what I see thus far.
Do you believe Boasso will propose a Democratic social agenda? How many of his positions do you believe he will modify? And how do you believe the Democratic Party should handle Boasso’s switch? Should Chris Whittington make this into a world historical event, or should he allow Roger Villere to frame it as so much political prostitution? And how should Boasso explain his decision to switch parties? Should he mention President Bush’s approval ratings? Should he mention Iraq? Should he mention the disaster that was the 109th Congress? Should he discuss how Jindal was one of the reasons the 109th Congress is named the “do nothing” Congress? And should he mention Jindal’s failure to “get it done” for Louisiana?
Feel free to quote from other news sources in the comments thread. And be sure to read Jeffrey Sadow’s insane meditation on Boasso’s switch. Sadow is so unglued, leather restraints cannot hold him back.