Rove’s Republicanization of NO Worked

Karl Rove’s plan as New Orleans Reconstruction Czar to decimate the Democratic hold  on the city and turn it into a white Republican playground has already borne fruit. The election of Republican Bobby Jindal as Louisiana’s new governor was, according to The Economist, a direct result of the city’s new political character.

[N]ext year the Democrats’ top officeholder, Ms Landrieu, looks like facing an uphill battle. When she was last elected, in 2002, she won in large part thanks to a landslide in her home city, heavily Democratic New Orleans. Whereas the city’s predilections haven’t changed dramatically, its size has, and its electoral significance along with it. In 2002 almost 133,000 New Orleanians voted in the Senate race. On October 20th less than 60% of that number turned up at the polls, a sign of the city’s post-Katrina shrinkage. Ms Landrieu won New Orleans by almost 80,000 votes in 2002, twice her overall margin of victory. This time, that was more votes than all the candidates got combined in the city that was once the alpha and the omega of Louisiana politics.

New Orleans may not be a Republican city yet but it has clearly lost its power to sway statewide elections. In other words, it has been removed as an obstacle to Republican control of Louisiana, and for the GOP’s purposes, that’s just as good.

The Economist notes that Jindal, while of East Indian extraction and very young, “is a religious conservative who was as reliable a rubber-stamp as George Bush had in Congress, refusing to make a fuss even when Republicans there were blaming New Orleans for Katrina.”

And that, folks, is the name of Rove’s game.

9 Responses to “Rove’s Republicanization of NO Worked”

  1. Laura says:

    Oh, you’re just racist, Mick (chuckle). I’m surprised Mister Rove had time to work on New Orleans with all the energy he’s expending to make sure our choice in ’08 is between Hillary and whatever freaky Republican ends up on the ballot… either way the election goes, Rove is happy and all of us are still inching toward the poorhouse. (pre-apology to HRC or freaky repub fans)

  2. I think you’re a bit unfair in your evaluation. Jindal was only in Congress for a couple of years as a back-bencher, so it’s tough to really evaluate his closeness to Rove-ism. What I can tell you, though, is that the first time he ran for governor – against Blanco in 2003- he received the endorsement of Ray Nagin (yes, THAT Ray Nagin).

    In this election, it’s also worth noting that he got 54% of the vote in the election, which was what they call a “jungle primary” with 11 other candidates; another right of center candidate won an additional 14% of the vote, meaning that non-Democrats got 68% of the vote. To get that percentage of the votes (more than triple the runner-up’s total) in such a situation suggests a base of support that is far too broad to attribute to any one factor. Indeed, wikipedia states that New Orleans’ current population is about 200,000 less than it was pre-Katrina. Jindal got over 300,000 votes more than the combined vote totals of all the Democrats in the race, and 150,000 more than all other candidates combined (a right-leaning independent got 170,000 votes).

    Don’t get me wrong- on most issues, Jindal’s a die-hard post-9/11 Republican. But I’d be very hesitant to blame his election on Rove given his broad pre-existing base of support within the state. And let’s keep in mind that as bad as Bush’s response was to Katrina, Blanco’s response wasn’t much better- a disaster of that magnitude requires massive screw-ups on all levels, not just the federal level.

    I might also add that, while I don’t know enough about Jindal to have a real opinion of him personally, Jindal does seem to have a pretty good reputation for being thoughtful and considered in his actions and mannerisms, even with people who disagree with him on the issues.

  3. mick says:

    I think you misunderstood me, Mark. I didn’t mean to suggest that Jindal was “Rovian”, only that he was able to win statewide office as a Republican at least in part because a huge Democratic vote in NO no longer exists to prevent it, and that that was the point of Rove’s plan. Would Jindal have won if NO was still intact? I don’t know but I would have to say I doubt it. The GOP’s approval rating was low in NO pre-Katrina, and the odds would be that they wouldn’t have improved. The Economist’s point was that there were fewer NO votes cast in total than the plurality Blanco got pre-Katrina. I haven’t seen Jindal’s numbers and don’t know how close the election was (The Economist says he got 54% without giving a vote total). Would an extra 40,000+ Democratic votes have changed the outcome?

    As for the characterization of Jindal, I know very little about him. The assessment in the post is a quote from The Economist, not me.

    The point is that Rove’s strategy worked. NO is no longer a Democratic roadblock for the GOP in LA to surmount. They can forget about it as a political force for the foreseeable future.

  4. Sorry if I misunderstood your last paragraph; I just wanted to make sure we weren’t diluting the meaning of the term “Roveian” (which plays directly into the diehard Repubs’ hand) since Jindal has a pretty good reputation for sincerity and honesty.

    Anyways, my point was more that the decline in NO’s population didn’t likely have much of an effect on the gubernatorial election, since the population decline is about 200,000 (not all of which is likely voters, of course), but Jindal beat the combined Dem total by more than 300,000 and the combined total of all other candidates by about 150,000.

    As far as the change in LA politics due to the loss of NO’s population, I’m sure there is a fair amount of truth there. I don’t know enough about LA politics to know the extent to which NO was the be all and end all of the state. However, the effect may not be as large as estimated since we can assume that some portion of the departed inhabitants are living in other areas of LA.

    As for Landrieu’s chances, I think she’s going to be just fine. Yeah, she only won by 4% or so, and was a slight loser outside of NO. But that showing was a vast improvement over her initial election performance, when she only won after a recount. So, she’s been trending upwards statewide to begin with. Add to that the fact, IIRC, she was largely immune from criticisms of the response to Katrina (and I think- could be wrong here- is even considered to have done a good job on that front). She is also, I think, widely respected even amongst Republicans for generally being a decent and honest person. Finally, there is a lot of evidence that Republicans are engaging in a fool’s errand by targeting her seat for this election cycle- an early poll had her with more than 50% support and a 15 point lead over the top Repub. candidate. She’s also raised 5 times as much money as she did at this point in her last election cycle (when she was also targeted).

  5. jah says:

    To my knowledge Jindal has never held a job longer than two years. He’s a very bright, fast-talking guy who says he’s “a problem-solver, not a politician.” He’s held offices for which he was appointed by politicians. He is a member of the House of Representatives and previously ran for governor. Last time I checked, if you run for a political office, you’re a politician.

    He left the state’s higher education system in a mess when he left, and he left the state’s health system in debt to Medicaid, but someone talked the feds out of making Louisiana make up the shortfall. Louisiana has been trending Republican for several election cycles and there was no strong Democratic candidate to make it a contest in this election. The state Democratic Party is not well-organized. As the rest of the country zigs, Louisiana zags. Not much new there. Since I live here, I hope he succeeds beyond my wildest fears.

  6. mick says:

    Mark:

    I hope you’re right about Landrieu. I have a lot of respect for her, too. But at the risk of becoming redundant, let’s take one more step: Landrieu won by a sliver, almost certainly because of NO. She may be safe now because she’s an incumbent with a good rep, but what about a newcomer Dem? W/out NO as a reliable base, how could any Dem get a foothold in state politics now? It won’t be easy. Again, that was the point of Rove’s plan. He had a chance to use Katrina to damage or destroy the Democratic party in LA, and he took it, cynically and w/out regard for the ex-inhabitants. Sounds like Jindal would have won regardless, and jah agrees the state is trending Pub anyhow.

    Still, I have to wonder. Blanco’s rep is in the toilet, and maybe she deserves some of the blame for lack of action in the aftermath. But I can’t forget that she refused to buckle under to Bush’s attempt to blackmail her into letting him declare martial law in NO when he refused – for five days – to release Federal aid unless she caved. To some extent, the hits she’s taking stem from that delay, and most people don’t know that the delay happened because she was fighting for democracy, not boosting her own power. The whole country owes her a debt for her courage. If she hadn’t done what she did, Bush would have destroyed Posse Comitatus and had himself a precedent for legally declaring federal martial law anywhere and any time for almost any reason.

    She stopped him but the price she – and the LA Democratic party – may be paying for that gutsy stand is disarray and blame for the debacle that, at least in part, they don’t deserve. Maybe the state wouldn’t be “trending Republican” if Blanco had been able to do what she wanted to do and the Bush Admin had done what it should have done in the days immediately following the storm. With the LANG tied up in Iraq, Blanco was dependent on Federal help in a way she wouldn’t have been if she’d had access to them at full strength. Don’t you think feelings about the Donkeys would be higher if they’d been able to engineer a quicker, more thorough response? You gotta remember, Bush has been fighting them every step of the way and Rove has been throwing up roadblocks everywhere. Since he took over the “reconstruction”, his primary aim has been to develop NO as a Republican theme park. Look at where he put his money – condos upstate and business districts downstate. He’s released a piddling amount of funds to homeowners or for reclaiming neighborhoods compared to the $$$Billions$$$ he’s shelled out to corporations. And the Dems have been taking a lot of the heat for Pub intransigence.

    I think it would have made a big difference.

  7. I’m not from Louisiana, so I can’t really comment on the political mood of the state, and I don’t deny that the decline of NO severely hurts the Dems politically in the state.

    But I do question whether the response to Katrina was just an attempt by Rove to make LA more Republican, for a couple reasons (and don’t get me wrong- the man epitomizes the idea that the ends always justify the means, and he’s clearly a calculating bastard):
    1. Protecting Republicans on a national scale (and especially his man Dubya) is his top priority. If hurting Dems in LA was going to also mean hurting Dubya and Repubs nationally (which it did, and which was frankly inevitable given the response), then the destruction of NO would hurt Rove’s interests more than help him.
    2. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which the LA Dems still came out of the situation smelling like roses even despite the Administration’s behavior. Sure, it would have been tough for them to do- but not impossible, which would mean Rove was taking a huge risk of permanently turning the state of LA against the Repubs.
    3. Whatever the local trends within LA, it’s pretty clear that Bush has (justifiably) borne the brunt of the blame for the response, which is something that any idiot would have expected under the circumstances. Indeed, some of the Administration’s defenses were so absurd and politically inept that they actually must have believed what they were saying (ie, “no one knew the levees could break”).

    The more rational explanation, I think, is simply political patronage- which is, after all, what high-level government is usually about. In order to be a successful politician, you have to get elected and re-elected, and that means diverting precious resources to those who help you get elected (and thus away from those who don’t). It also means appointing lobbyists for Arabian horses as the head of FEMA.

  8. mick says:

    Mark, if this were a normal administration of either party, overall I’d agree with you. But what a lot of people – including you, apparently – don’t yet seem to realize is that it isn’t. It’s nothing like normal. Bush is a fundamentalist Xtian authoritarian who thinks god talked to him and told him to wage the Final War against Islam in order to bring on the Second Coming, who thinks that the Constitution ought to be replaced by Biblical law, and an economic elitist who believes without questions or doubts that the bvusiness of govt is to be handmaiden to corporate greed. Cheney is a crackpot Nixonian authoritarian who thinks a president is – or ought to be – the same as a king, that the Constitution is outdated and a real drag, and that the entire executive branch, like a monarchy, is above the law. Rove is a conscienceless authoritarian who has always had a single agenda: making the US a one-party authoritarian state (a la Imperial Rome or Chile during Pinochet’s reign) no matter what it takes. And they all see their ascension to power mas a chance to create – by force, if necessary – the Imperial, quasi-monarchic, corporate America the far right has been dreaming about since FDR.

    These are NOT normal politicians. Everything they do is done in the context of True Believers elevated at a crosspoint in history for one reason and one reason only: to materialize the autocratic Empire they see as the salvation of a Western civilization on the brink of destruction by hostile forces (largely imaginary). In short, they are all batshit crazy. It’s a mistake to try to understand their motivations and actions through a lens of normality. It isn’t “rational” to try to understand paranoid-schizophrenics by assuming they’re neither paranoid nor schizophrenic.

    Take your #1, for instance. Once you understand that Karl Rove has tunnel vision, a lot of the crazy shit he’s done suddenly makes sense. Anybody with an ounce of foresight could have predicted with ease that politicizing the DOJ the extent that he did would be bound to snap back on him, or that fostering a historic level of corruption and overt politicization in every single govt agency would inevitably bring down condemnation on both the Admin and the GOP. Rove didn’t care about any of that. These are strictly “ends justify the means” people and all Karl saw was that the only way he could bring about the total destruction of the Democratic party was to use every single weapon at his disposal without discrimination. He has always been a “shotgun” strategist (throw every piece of slime you can find at the wall because some of it is going to stick) and never been terribly concerned about consequences because he was always confident he’d get what he wanted in the end. He never allowed himself to think about potential consequences. He convinced himself he was going to succeed and there wouldn’t be any consequences because a puppet GOP would be in charge. Besides, any price would be worth paying if at the end of the day the only one standing was Bush’s GOP. If a few Pubs had to be sacrificed along the way, tough. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

    That’s why he was so wrong last November and a major reason why he “left” the Admin in August. He’s incapable of dealing with failure, incapable of adjusting to losses on that scale. So he got out. I don’t think he expected the strength of the whiplash against the Pubs, but I’d be willing to bet that even now he believes they’ll recover from it. Which leads us to #2.

    That scenario would never have occurred to him. He has nothing but contempt for the Dems and has shown it at every opportunity. He doesn’t believe they could turn anything to their advantage, not even a Gift from the Gods. And he’s been proven right over and over for 20 yrs. They’re just as corrupt as the Pubs and spineless weasels besides. He has always been able to count on them to squander advantages, and they’ve never disappointed him.

    As for #3, it doesn’t matter to Rove & Co if the excuses are weak. What’s important, as with any Big Lie, is that you pretend to believe them and then repeat them endlessly endlessly endlessly. It’s the strategy they’ve followed in every single instance, from the Iraq War to SCHIP. If the strategy isn’t working now, it’s the first time in a quarter century that it hasn’t (with the exception of the attempt to privatize SocSec).

    In fine, it never occurred to Rove or anyone else in this Admin that their dream policies would not just fail but fail spectacularly. They’ve been operating on the assumption that they would succeed, and that assumption justified every risk, every slimy tactic, every illegal act. They never saw failure coming and so never planned for it. In fact, they’ve been relentlessly optimistic in the face of massive debacles. None of them planned for failure because none of them allowed it as an option. If it can’t happen, why worry about what to do if it does?

    We are being ruled by paranoid psychopaths so divorced from reality that they actually believe everything in Iraq is going just as it should, and if it isn’t now it will later as long as they stick to their guns. “And the big fool says to push on.” You can’t judge them by normal standards.

  9. I agree with much of what you say, especially regarding the authoritarian streak. Cheney has been quite open about the fact that his goals all along have been to increase the power in the Executive Branch- something which, by the way, goes against every truly conservative/libertarian principle that ever existed pre-2000. The fact that most of the Republicans running for Prez still claim to support smaller government but also believe in defending Cheney’s view of Executive Power amounts to serious doublethink (a powerful executive by definition means a larger, more intrusive government).

    Still, I am hesitant to attribute motives to anyone on anything without a direct statement by them as to their motivation. I have good reasons for being so hesitant, but an appropriate explanation would require far more time than I have available right now. If you’ve read Sully’s “The Conservative Soul,” his chapter on the “Conservatism of Doubt” does a pretty good job explaining it though.

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