John N. Kennedy won re-election Tuesday with 62% of the vote after receiving 61% in the 2016 runoff. Republican Bill Cassidy won in 2020 with 59%, six years after beating longtime Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu with 56% of the total.
In each of the last five Louisiana presidential elections, the total number of Republicans fell between 57% and 59%, regardless of whether the candidate was Donald Trump or one of his mainstream nemesis, Mitt Romney, John McCain or George W. Bush.
The point here is that for nearly two decades, Louisiana has consistently given about an equal share of its votes to Republicans running in national or nationalized races, give or take a few points. Landrieu survived longer than most thanks to her intense focus on state needs rather than national party issues, but by 2014 it was clear for a while that she was on borrowed time.
That means the pattern was set before Trump ever became a national political figure, and it will likely endure when he eventually fades, whether sooner – as it now appears – or later, consistent with his own history of political ascension dead.
In other words, the embittered ex-president may be the biggest disruptive factor of our time, but he hasn’t been a disruptive factor too much here in Louisiana.
Yes, there have been some showdowns between Trump acolytes and the mainstream establishment over the years. One came in 2016, when another die-hard, ill-informed media figure named Clay Higgins beat Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle out of the 3rd congressional district seat.
But while other states have seen violent confrontations between the two camps, Republicans in Louisiana mostly get along.
After losing to Higgins, Angelle landed a big job with the Trump administration, which is driving deregulation of offshore oil and gas.
Members of the congressional delegation generally followed the former president’s lead — some happier than others — even when it meant embracing deeply damaging conspiracy theories about President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.
Cassidy, the only Republican in the Louisiana Congress who has the inner strength to acknowledge that Trump instigated the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, was sanctioned by the state party for his vote to convict the impeachment trial, but he is not moving watching angry protesters when he speaks across the state.
That’s actually an auspicious sign after the midterm elections gave Trump a long-overdue reprieve as his handpicked Senate nominees fell flat and dodgy state-level hopefuls were crushed state by state.
If Trump is really weak this time around – and it’s hard to imagine how losing a bunch of winnable races and the investigations and the vitriol and all that other madness wouldn’t do it – then the Republicans from Louisiana, who sided with his camp, can , swing it out again slightly.
Cassidy has already done so, and Kennedy, Steve Scalise, Garret Graves and maybe even newcomer Julia Letlow can now help the country get back to something like normal politics. Louisians are unlikely to turn against them en masse the way Wyoming Republicans turned on Liz Cheney, who remains as traditionally Republican on politics as they come.
There are also opportunities in the state races next year. Attorney General Jeff Landry, the closest in style and agenda to Trump, has secured official but rigged endorsement from the Louisiana Republican Party. But the party apparatus itself is weak, and there is a large movement behind the scenes to find a major Republican challenger more palatable to the mainstream arm of the GOP.
Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who sometimes pays lip service to unsubstantiated voting conspiracies but generally runs a fairly strict ship, is expected to face a Trump-backed challenger for re-election. But why should Republican voters settle for the electoral chaos rather than the consistency they’ve grown accustomed to and surely appreciate even more given voting tensions in other states?
With an unexpectedly strong showing from Democrats across the country, how much the Trump era has realigned the political landscape and voters is a topic of debate. In some places the changes were pronounced and could well stick.
But long before Louisiana was a Trump state, it was a Republican state, and likely will remain so. The politicians here really didn’t need Trump to be elected and they don’t owe him anything for their success.
Perhaps that will help them and the country take the much-needed step to move on.