Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Plutocrat Populism

The title of this post is the shortest and best way I know to summarize Louisiana politics today.  But it sounds so contradictory, you say?  Well, you say right, my friend.  The good news is that such a phony imitation of real politics can't last, so you won't have to wait very long for it to get better.  And, no, this doesn't mean my eternally optimistic nature has me blind to all the terrible and hurtful consequences which we will continue to suffer for having allowed things to degenerate so badly.  It simply means the internal political dynamic will drive the process in a more open and meaningful direction, one in which we can expect to see real choices in elections again, up and down the ballot.  Clearly, this election did not offer anything like that.

While there were a few races that did matter to the general public, most were mere stand-in contests between Jindal and Vitter for control of the state.  We all know Louisiana has become a one party state again.  And that this time it's Republican.  But what it has yet to evolve is a consolidated power center among the plutocrats.  So, it is not a truly factional type of politics under a single party umbrella, as it was during the Long and anti-Long days.  In those times, the factions represented broad and entrenched social and economic interests, not just personalities. 

We are not there yet, but we are headed that way.  Jindal won this round over Vitter, but Vitter and Jindal will likely be exchanging addresses in the next few years.  Vitter will be back in Louisiana because there is no opportunity for him on the Washington stage (his scandal foreclosed any greater national leadership ambitions),  and Jindal will be seeking a national role.  It remains to be seen if Jindal can hold power over the state while away, as Huey once did.  After the plutocratic internecine squabbles are settled, the people will have a larger opening to fight for real issues again.  But this time the anti faction will be the good guys.

A few genuine issues were in play Saturday, and are yet to be decided; the runoffs will therefore matter, at least a little.


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