A key reason for the troubles facing Blanco and her party is the massive out-migration of New Orleans-area Democrats in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The storm, and the administration’s botched handling of it, literally drove Democrats out of Louisiana. Though a perfect estimate is impossible, analysts who follow the state closely project the net decline for Democrats in New Orleans Parish to be somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 voters. In 2002, Blanco beat Jindal by 55,000 votes statewide, but nearly all of that margin came from the city. She won Orleans Parish by 50,000 votes. “It’s doubtful that there are enough Democrats left to provide the wide margin of victory in Orleans Parish that Democrats have traditionally relied upon for victory in statewide elections,” says Bob Mann, who served as former Sen. Breaux’s state director and, later, Blanco’s communications director. “That means candidates like Blanco will have to increase their margins elsewhere, in regions of the state that aren’t as reliably Democratic. That could make for a very tough election season for almost any Democrat running statewide, but even tougher for someone with the governor’s dismal poll numbers.” It may also mean that Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu will be out of a job come November 2008.
See? The GOP saw Katrina as an opportunity to make New Orleans whiter and, therefore, redder. And it’s working.
As Gallup’s latest survey of partisan self-identification reveals, largely because of Katrina Louisiana is the only state in which Democrats lost ground relative to Republicans since 2005, reclassifying it from a Democratic-leaning state to “competitive.” And the news could get worse for Democrats. Demographers expect the post-Katrina exodus to cost Louisiana, which was already losing population before the hurricane, one House seat following the 2010 census and reapportionment. With Democrats presently holding just two of the delegation’s seven seats, redistricting may cost them one of their two. They already lost one to a party switch and may lose another to the federal judicial system. …
…Along with Florida, Louisiana had been different, a state where multiracial coalitions propelled Clinton, Landrieu and Blanco to victories. In Louisiana, a black population of 32.5 percent made victory for Democrats possible. The post-Katrina question is whether the black population will remain large enough for Democrats to continue building such coalitions, especially if there is a backlash among white voters in the noncoastal portions of the state toward Blanco, controversial New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and state Democrats in general. Recent polls, however, are not promising, and they also show how resolutely racial party identification has become in the Deep South. The blacker the state, the more Republican the whites are.
Despite the “heckuva job” performance of the Bush administration during Katrina, the president’s approval rating among whites in Louisiana — 57 percent — is tied for second best in the nation with Georgia and Idaho, trailing only Mississippi’s 61 percent. The link between whiteness and Republicanism in the South is now so strong that it can even withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Now, without the tipping-point power of the Orleans Parish black electorate, Louisiana may well become the new Mississippi, which has two Republican senators and a Republican governor and hasn’t given its electoral votes to a Democrat since Jimmy Carter.
I wrote awhile back about how white racists hurt themselves almost as much as they hurt others. They’ll accept economic stagnation and a poorer quality of life generally for themselves rather than accept racial equality. Unfortunately their backwardness is hurting the rest of us, as well.