Elbert Guillory evidently doesn’t like Chihuahuas, else he wouldn’t have called Ted James one.

Perhaps Guillory, a Republican state senator from Opelousas, saw himself as the big dog around here when he grew irritated with James, a Democratic state representative from Baton Rouge.

Guillory terminated a discussion on a radio show by hanging up the phone because James was “yapping at his heels.”

Their disagreement was over the policies of the national Democratic Party, which Guillory abhors because he believes it has trapped black people in poverty and dependency. He is therefore keen to see Mary Landrieu lose her seat in the U.S. Senate to Congressman Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, in the upcoming runoff.

James, like Guillory, a black lawyer, not only sprang to the defense of the party to which he belongs but suggested that, if Guillory’s constituents were in such dire straits as claimed, perhaps they should blame the state senator from Opelousas as much as the U.S. senator from New Orleans. The phone went dead shortly thereafter.

The insult Guillory chose fit his argument to a T. The Wikipedia entry on Chihuahuas allows that they are “fiercely loyal to one particular guardian and may become over-protective of the person.” They would, therefore, in Guillory’s eyes, resemble Landrieu’s black defenders. The Democrats, he alleges, neglect the interests of black people, because they will get 95 percent of their votes no matter what. Guillory has spent much of the last year or so inveighing against what he sees as a mindless allegiance.

He is hardly the first to point out that a monolithic vote means diminished clout or to argue that government handouts have helped create a permanent underclass, but Guillory is practically making a career of urging black support for the GOP. In this, he exhibits the zeal of the recent convert, for he was a Democrat himself until last year.

Perhaps his heart never was really in it, however, for Guillory was a member of the GOP and sat on its state central committee before he decided to run for the state House in 2007. He qualified in a district that had always gone with the Democrats, after changing his registration to suit the preferences of the black voters whose support he presumably figured he needed to win.

Two years later, he moved up to the Senate, where he evidently yearned to return to his ideological roots. When he switched back last year, becoming Louisiana’s first black senator since Reconstruction, he made a video lasting almost five minutes explaining why all his “brothers and sisters in the black community” should also join the party of Abraham Lincoln, “freedom and progress.”

The video was a pretty standard GOP apologia, but black believers are rare enough for Guillory to have become a darling for the right-wing media and spur demand for more. He obliged with videos restating his faith in GOP ideology and urging black voters to oppose Landrieu, her fellow U.S. Sens. Kay Hagan, of North Carolina, and Mark Pryor, of Arkansas, as well as Michelle Nunn, candidate for an open Senate seat in Georgia.

Hagan, Pryor and Nunn were among the Democratic casualties of the recent election, while the margin of Landrieu’s primary lead does not bode well for the runoff. Whether Guillory’s efforts made any difference, nobody can tell.

Nobody knows either what Guillory was thinking when he called James a Chihuahua, although what Guillory has in mind is generally not very much. Around the time of his party switch, for instance, he testified in a legislative hearing against repealing the law that allows creationism to be taught in public school science classes. Guillory cautioned against rejecting “pseudoscience,” because he had once been impressed by a “semiclothed” witch doctor who juggled bones in a “dusty circle.”

Yet, having done his best to keep our kids mired in ignorance, here was Guillory in his radio debate with James blaming Landrieu and her national party for Louisiana’s “unproductive” educational system.

The debate came to a premature end when Guillory, after claiming that he would be glad to discuss the issues, got mad when James attempted to do so. James then told host Jim Engster that he has considerable respect for Guillory but seemed to confirm that it is a dog-eat-dog world when he added that he wouldn’t “stoop to his level” with an insult of his own.

James Gill’s email address is jgill@theadvocate.com.