SUN RISES IN EAST! POLITICIANS, NOT THE VOTERS,
Louisiana's GOP loses its "innocence" as well as its caucuses
Monday, December 20, 1999
by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
In a Commentary posted on "The Green Papers" last month [Hey, Louisiana Republicans!...Just Drop Your Pants!!...I'll Provide The Ruler!!!" (20 November 1999)], I detailed some of the issues involved in a tiff between the Republican state chairman of Louisiana and that state's Governor (also GOP) over whether that state's hoped-for "first-in-the-nation" Republican caucuses to begin the process of choosing the state's delegation to this summer's Republican National Telethon... excuse me, Convention... should be held or, instead, the state should simply hold a primary subsumed into the mass of primaries scheduled for 14 March 2000 and lumped together into a heaping helping of "Super Tuesday".
Last week, the Pelican State canceled its GOP caucuses, scheduled (after much chicanery- on the parts of Democrats- involving the Iowa and New Hampshire caucus/primary dates [which had been detailed in the "News" link of "The Green Papers" back in October]) for Saturday 15 January 2000. The press release posted on the Louisiana Republican web site "www.lagop.com" after this decision was taken on 15 December 1999 by the Executive Committee of the state's GOP indicates a virtual "lovefest": it talks of a "unanimous vote" (although its opening reference to "Louisiana Republican Party leaders" displaying "unprecedented unity" seems to me an indication that the Pelican State's GOP wouldn't know "unity" were it to come upon them and bite them on the behind!) and the press spokesman for the party, Connie Chittom, is quoted therein as saying that the 9-0 vote in favor of canceling the caucuses "demonstrates that Republicans can have very spirited debate among ourselves and then unify in order to achieve Republican ideals". Really??!!
To be honest, I don't see the "unity" in the Pelican State's GOP where the home page of the party's web site has in rather large letters under the party's logo: "CAUCUS Cancelled Grass Roots-0 Politicians-1". And just WHICH Republicans were involved in this "very spirited debate" anyway? This was a decision made by an "Executive Committee", not the Louisiana Republicans as a whole; the GOP rank and file of that state were not in the least consulted and the cancellation of the caucuses is the very sign that they would never be included in the term "ourselves" nor invited to participate in any such "spirited debate"! The state's GOP chairman posted a quote above one of his November memos I summarized in my earlier Commentary, one from John Quincy Adams: "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish"; thanks, Coach! ... but, in this case, it was the "magical effect" which disappeared!!
The facts of the matter are these: Governor Mike Foster of Louisiana supports George W. Bush- the Governor of the neighboring state of Texas- for President and Bush clearly feared either a less than expected result for a front-runner or even a potential loss in the planned 15 January caucuses which could harm his momentum going into Iowa's caucuses (24 January) and New Hampshire's primary (1 February). And so Governor Bush (forsaking any pretense of favoring the democratic processes- what little "democracy" there is within these processes- of the pre-Convention delegate selection procedures of the two major parties) put pressure on the Louisiana GOP Chairman Mike Francis to endorse him- hoping that such an endorsement would induce Mr. Francis to cancel the caucuses- and then, failing to gain Mr. Francis' support, he put pressure on Governor Foster to badmouth the caucuses and force his own state to abandon the caucuses for a primary of little notice and even lesser account on "Super Tuesday" (keep in mind that Louisiana is larger in population than both Iowa and New Hampshire combined!)
The Republican National Committee often makes much of the fact that, unlike the Democrats, they do not operate under centralized, nationalized party rules; that the GOP allows each state or other jurisdiction choosing delegates to the National Convention to set up its own procedures and timing for such delegate selection. Here was a case of a state attempting- as was its privilege under the party's own rules- to choose its delegates in a way which, more than likely, fit the state's political culture and electoral personality: a bifurcated procedure in which Louisiana Republicans could have walked into one of 100 locations scattered about the Pelican State on that third Saturday in January, talked (or, for that matter, not talked) with fellow Pelican State Republicans from their Parish (or, in the larger populated parishes, their section of a Parish) and then chosen delegates to a Convention which would have chosen their Congressional District's 3 delegates to the GOP Convention: a true grass-roots impact upon the state's Convention delegation. To offset any "skewing" to the Republican fringe caused by such caucuses, there would still have been a primary on 14 March's "Super Tuesday" which would give all the at-large delegates to the statewide winner of that primary (presumably someone who would have been "shaken out" by the primaries and caucuses in between 15 January and 14 March). But- alas!- this is not to be!!
Of course, the Republican National Committee COULD have- even without centralized party rules- taken a cold, hard look at whether what was happening in Louisiana was conducive to the RNC's own concepts of how much or how little interference there should be in a state's delegate selection process, but they chose not to. Partially this is due to the RNC having a chairman, Jim Nicholson, who would rather spend his time posting rather inane "pot shots" at the Democrats on the RNC web site (www.rnc.org) instead of anything more substantive or- for that matter- useful, but mostly it is due to the GOP hierarchy (much like the Democratic hierarchy in relation to Al Gore) coming out early and often in favor of Governor Bush's nomination. The last thing the RNC would even want is any kind of "spirited debate" as far as this summer's Republican National Coronation... oops!- pardon me again!!: Convention is concerned... The thing that professional politicians fear the most- regardless of party or ideology- is honest political debate involving non-politicians.
The only saving grace of this whole mess is that the Louisiana
Republican primary come "Super Tuesday" will be a Proportional one with
a 10 percent threshold statewide, meaning that any contender receiving
at least 10 percent of the vote in the primary will gain a share of
that state's delegation to the Convention. Nevertheless, despite this
one very minor concession to the input of the rank and file Republicans
of the Pelican State, this whole sorry episode begs the question of
whether the Republicans have truly overtaken the Democrats as THE
national political party as we leave the 20th Century behind and enter
the 3rd Millennium. I can't answer this question with certainty but
will say only this: not only can the Republicans successfully
engaged in the same kind of political hypocrisy as the Democrats,
they've also become so very GOOD at it! Sadly, perhaps, this is what is
most required to become the leading national party after all!!