Dr. Christie L. Maloyed, co-editor along with Dr. Pearson Cross of The Party is Over: The New Louisiana Politics, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss the recent release of her book by LSU Press.
The Party is Over provides a comprehensive reassessment of Louisiana state politics, institutions, and policies in the 21st century. The book comprises fourteen chapters written by different political experts in Louisiana hailing from institutions such as Tulane, LSU, Southern, UL-Lafayette, UL – Monroe, and non-government organizations, where they focus on issues impacting Louisiana.
“Politics can be so negative. But political science brings an analytical framework that gives students the tools to step back from the vitriol and think about the factors influencing how our institutions work, why do people act like do, and why do they advocate for some policies over others? When you can prepare students with that research mindset, it changes the way that they’re able to engage in political discourse that makes conversations much more productive.”
Other books have been written about a single aspect of Louisiana politics or the history of well-known people such as Governors Huey Long and Edwin Edwards. But The Party is Over zooms out to that 20,000-foot level to assess the current state of affairs in Louisiana and the forces that brought us here.
Louisiana political analyst Jeremy Alford’s writing focuses on the dramatic changes we have seen in the Louisiana legislature. His chapter takes a deep dive into the way campaigning and term limits have dramatically altered the nature of relationships in the legislature. While term limits have benefits in that people can’t serve in office for life, it has also kept people from building long-term relationships. With more turnover, there is a cost to the sense of camaraderie that comes along with it.
Louisiana has always been a sui generis (unique) state, being predominantly a “big D” (Democratic) state, holding on longer than other southern states in the U. S. (which experienced the shift to a majority of Republican voters and elected officials). Democrat and Republican ideals didn’t historically cause a division among our Louisianans; rather, people were either “Huey Long-ites or Anti-Huey Long-ites.”
But the national trend of partisan politics has trickled down into Louisiana and in the past ten years, many elected officials have made the shift from Democratic to Republican. Interestingly, however, this dramatic shift hasn’t occurred among the voting population. We still have an inordinate number of registered Democratic voters in a state where the majority of elected officeholders are Republican. In 2000, Democrats held the overwhelming number of elected seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives and Senate; in just twenty years, those numbers are upside with the Republican party holding a vast majority of the elected seats in both houses. Outside observers puzzle over this conundrum, but with Louisiana’s open primary system, people can vote for candidates no matter what their registration is. There is no push to go through the process of changing parties when you can vote for any candidate no matter their party.
On the local government front, Dr. Maloyed had taught her political science students about the concept of “consolidated government” but had never experienced it. When she moved to Lafayette in 2015, she was intrigued by consolidation and glad to have the opportunity to learn more about how it worked in reality. She has found that many of the citizens of Lafayette parish who are otherwise very politically astute find consolidation very confusing; they do not understand how consolidation works. “That’s somewhat baked into the design of Lafayette’s system,” as contrasted to that of New Orleans where things work more effectively (where the city and Parish of Orleans are truly consolidated…just one governing body which is only one of four in the country). In Lafayette, it’s a challenge to figure out who is responsible for what, where funds come from, and where the funds go can be a troubling thing.
The Party is Over: The New Louisiana Politics may be purchased at Barnes & Noble and is also available online at Amazon. Co-edited by Pearson Cross and Christie L. Maloyed, it contains fourteen chapters written by thought leaders, Louisiana professors from Tulane, LSU, Southern, UL-Lafayette, UL – Monroe, and executives of non-government organizations,
Dr. Maloyed shared that political science literature has reported that many other cities and counties that have consolidated are facing similar issues to the City and Parish of Lafayette. In particular, the city centers begin losing population to the outlying areas. Originally, the large city would take for granted that it would always be the center of political power and the majority of the population and tax power. But as that changes, the dynamics change and one person has to wear “two hats” as the governing executive of the city and county with competing interests. It’s unclear who’s being represented well in those situations. This is not to cast aspirations on the person in the office, it is just a reality of consolidation that does not always work well. Baton Rouge is facing a more severe version of this conundrum as more and more cities have been created as a way to get out of consolidation, with St. George being the latest attempt at “freedom.”
“Local government is the most interesting politics because you get to know a real cast of characters that are involved. Local government touches people’s lives in a way that state and federal governments don’t. I care very much about the people trimming my trees in my yard so that in the next hurricane I don’t lose my utilities. This matters dramatically in our day-to-day lives.”
The loss of local media across the U. S. is analyzed by Robert Mann in the chapter entitled “The Latest Last Hayride: Louisiana’s Political Journalism in Transition.” Local news coverage has declined in the face of rising political narratives on television and social media. The financial bust of 2008 caused many news sources to close due to a lack of advertising dollars needed to support operations. We’ve lost the nuances of what is happening politically in our local regions. Candidates no longer travel from town to town, stumping for their campaign. Retail politics used to be confronted in a very public and visceral way by people who disagree with them.
Today, you can run a campaign digitally, never experiencing this one-on-one contact with constituents. Dr. Malyoed remembers going to public meetings, pre-COVID, watching local officials change their minds when they were at a public event and heard the concerns of local residents. Public, face-to-face interactions are so different from online social media “events.”
Jan Moller and Albert Samuels’s chapters speak on the incredible impact of Hurricane Katrina on the vibrancy of New Orleans, the school system, and the Louisiana safety net of Poverty in the 21st century. The educational upheaval in New Orleans brought in outside money which got involved in affecting the course of local school board elections. This trend is now prevalent throughout the state as outside influences affect local policy decisions and elections.
Professor Rick Swanson’s chapter on “The Politics of Racial Memory in Lousiana” focuses on what do we do with Civil War monuments that were put up in the Jim Crow era. Locally, Mayor-President Josh Guillory took a stand in 2020 in the local deadlock on what to do with the Alfred Mouton statue that had remained on visible display in downtown Lafayette.
Louisiana is at a crosspoint for so many policy considerations and conversations, from trying to adapt to climate change, to adopting criminal justice reform, and dealing with the transition from oil and gas to other industries. We are resilient people. This is one of my favorite things about being in Lafayette. We’ve come back again and again….we are scrappy! After the decline of oil and gas in the 1980s and the way people rallied….today there are also a lot of opportunities to collaborate and chart a path forward. Even though we can see these national trends of polarization, that isn’t fundamentally who we are as Louisianans and that doesn’t have to define us as we go forward.
Michael Henderson’s chapter on “Public Opinion in Louisiana: More Change, More of the Same,” is one of Dr. Maloyed’s favorite chapters as Henderson talks about how most people share values on policy issues….much more than they are separated by being Democrat or Republican. We share values in Louisiana and can work together to make lasting change.
Women in Louisiana Politics: Barriers and Opportunites speaks on how women in political office can dramatically change the discussion at the table. An increase of women in elected office changes the topics and perspectives that people bring to the table in legislative bodies. Diversity brings about the chance to change the narratives of partisan politics.
The Party is Over: The New Louisiana Politics may be purchased at Barnes & Noble and is also available online at Amazon.