The wave of dismay and horror about impeachment covered endlessly in the national press is hardly a ripple in deep-red Louisiana.
Is that the political lesson for 2020 in the state, where, like the rest of the nation, members of Congress will be elected in November? Probably.
In addition, in Louisiana in 2020, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, will face the voters for his first reelection campaign. He won his first six-year term in 2014 handily over U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans.
Few races have more vividly demonstrated the difference between Louisiana's past state-centric campaigns and the new national elections in which the increasingly frenetic emotions of American politics predominate.
Landrieu, a three-term senator, had brought home the bacon from Capitol Hill and forged a moderate record, including chairing the Energy Committee and being a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry. Indeed, Cassidy spent much of his first term following up on her accomplishments in revenue sharing from Gulf of Mexico oil production.
But she had voted for the much-maligned “Obamacare,” and Cassidy, a physician, lashed her for it. And let’s face it, voters were different from yesteryear, caring little about her yeoman’s work for state interests. Instead, D-New Orleans, might as well have been Socialist-Crescent City.
And that race, after all, happened when Donald J. Trump was a freak candidate who was not going to be elected to anything.
Trump’s 20-point win in the state in 2016 underlined the transition, as did Eddie Rispone coming within 40,000 votes of being elected governor this November, with the presidential endorsement being his principal campaign platform.
Several pollsters have detected some bit of wobbling in the president’s approval ratings in various surveys in Louisiana, but that he is favored by a majority in Louisiana is not in doubt. The Democratic candidates will come to New Orleans for convention speeches and for fundraisers, but other than a scramble for delegates to the national convention before the April 4 primary, that’s about it for our 2020 involvement.
Does impeachment matter in Louisiana?
Perhaps it does, because it is widely felt that incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards was able to motivate his voters in the runoff in reaction to Trump’s appearances. And in 2018, turnout was significantly higher than normal for the midterm elections for Congress, even as most U.S. House members did not face grave threats to reelection.
For Cassidy, who must run statewide and not in a district with lines manicured to produce Republican majorities, impeachment should not matter. He has been as stringently anti-impeachment as Trump’s followers could ask. He is one of the delegation’s policy wonks, legislating on a wide variety of subjects, but the underlying reality of his politics seems to be a belief that what matters is devotion to the president.
As can be said of most Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Louisiana delegation has refused to grapple with the realities of Trump’s offenses, instead denouncing the Democrats on process grounds. Such is their subservience to the president that they will not acknowledge in public that Trump should never have played politics with national security policy, nor been involved with the grotesque Rudy Giuliani maneuvers in Ukraine.
In The American Conservative, Baton Rouge writer Rod Dreher put the GOP slipperiness into high relief: “Donald Trump’s actual guilt in the Ukraine matter is in dispute, but what’s really not a matter of serious contention is that the president brought this onto himself by his extraordinarily reckless behavior. As usual with Donald Trump, he creates messes for himself that a person with a normal sense of self-discipline would never dream of doing.”
That kind of honesty, acknowledging mistakes by the president but standing by him on the larger questions, used to be an unexceptional position for politicians. Today, it would bring down Oval Office wrath via Twitter.
Unless the president’s position erodes drastically, it’s not very likely that his defenders in Louisiana will embrace such forthrightness in the coming campaigns.
Email Lanny Keller at email@example.com.