Dr. Christie L. Maloyed, co-editor with Dr. Pearson Cross of The Party’s Over: Louisiana’s New Politics, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss the recent release of his 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 includes fourteen chapters written by different Louisiana political experts from institutions such as Tulane, LSU, Southern, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe, and non-governmental organizations, where they focus on issues impacting Louisiana.
“Politics can be so negative. But political science provides an analytical framework that gives students the tools to step back from the vitriol and think about the factors that influence how our institutions work, why people act the way they do, and why they advocate for certain policies. rather than for others? When you can prepare students for this research mindset, it changes the way they are able to engage in political discourse which makes conversations much more productive.
Other books have been written on a single aspect of Louisiana politics or on the history of figures 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 situation in Louisiana and the forces that brought us here.
The writings of Louisiana political analyst Jeremy Alford focus on the dramatic changes we have seen in the Louisiana legislature. His chapter dives deep into how campaigns and term limits have dramatically altered the nature of relationships within the legislature. While term limits have advantages in that people cannot stay in office for life, it has also prevented people from forming long-term relationships. With more turnover, there is a cost to the sense of camaraderie that comes with it.
Louisiana has always been a sui generis State (single), being primarily a “big D” state (Democrat), holding longer than other states in the southern United States (which have seen the transition to a majority of voters and elected Republicans). Democratic and Republican ideals have not historically caused division among our Louisianans; rather, people were either “Huey Long-ites or Anti-Huey Long-ites”. But the national trend of partisan politics has spread to Louisiana, and over the past decade many elected officials have switched from Democrat to Republican. Interestingly, however, this sea change did not occur among the voting population. We still have an inordinate number of registered Democratic voters in a state where the majority of elected voters are Republicans. People out of state wonder about this conundrum, but with Louisiana’s open primary system, people can vote for candidates regardless of registration. There is no incentive to go through the process of changing parties.
On the local government front, Dr. Maloyed had taught his political science students the concept of “consolidated government”, but had never experienced it. When she moved to Lafayette in 2015, she was intrigued by the consolidation and excited to have the opportunity to learn more about how it works in real life. She found that many citizens of Lafayette Parish who are otherwise very politically astute find the consolidation very confusing; they don’t understand how consolidation works. “It’s kind of built into the design of the Lafayette system,” unlike New Orleans where things work more efficiently (where the city and parish of Orleans is really consolidated…one governing body that doesn’t is only one of four in the country). In Lafayette, it’s a challenge to know who is responsible for what, where the funds come from and where the funds go can be a confusing thing.
The Party’s Over: Louisiana’s New Politics can be purchased from 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 leaders of nonprofit organizations. governmental,
Dr. Maloyed shared that the political science literature has reported that many other cities and counties that have consolidated face similar issues to the city and parish of Lafayette. In particular, city centers are beginning to lose population to outlying areas. Originally, the big city would take it for granted that it would always be the center of political power and majority population and fiscal power. But as that changes, the dynamic changes and one person has to wear “two hats” as a city and county governing executive with competing interests. It is unclear who is well represented in these situations. It’s not about projecting aspirations onto the person in the office, it’s just a consolidating reality that doesn’t always work well. Baton Rouge faces a tougher version of this conundrum as more towns have been created to emerge from 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 who are involved. Local government touches people’s lives in ways that state and federal governments don’t. I care a lot of people pruning my trees in my yard so that when the next hurricane hits me, I don’t lose my utilities. That matters a lot to our day-to-day lives.”
The loss of local media across the United States is analyzed by Robert Mann in the chapter titled “The Last Last Hayride: Louisiana Political Journalism in Transition.“Local news coverage has declined in the face of rising political narratives on television and social media. The 2008 financial crisis caused many news sources to shut down due to a lack of advertising funds needed to support operations. We have lost the nuances of what is happening politically in our local areas. Candidates no longer travel from town to town, rushing for their campaign. Retail politics used to be confronted in a very public and visceral way with people who disagreed with it.
Today, you can campaign digitally, without ever experiencing that one-on-one contact with voters. Dr. Malyoed recalls attending public meetings, before COVID, seeing local authorities change their minds when they were at a public event, and hearing the concerns of local residents. Face-to-face public interactions are so different from online social media “events”.
Chapters by Jan Moller and Albert Samuels discuss Hurricane Katrina’s incredible impact on the vibrancy of New Orleans, the school system, and Louisiana’s poverty safety net in the 21st century. The educational upheaval in New Orleans brought in outside money that became involved in running local school board elections. This trend is now prevalent across the state as outside influences affect local political decisions and elections.
Professor Rick Swanson’s chapter on “The Politics of Racial Memory in Louisiana” focuses on what we do with the Civil War monuments that were erected in the Jim Crow era. Locally, Mayor-President Josh Guillory took a stand in 2020 amid the local impasse over what to do with the Alfred Mouton statue that had remained visible in downtown Lafayette.
Louisiana is at a crossroads for so many political considerations and conversations, from trying to adapt to climate change to embracing criminal justice reform and transitioning from oil and gas to d other industries. We are resilient people. It’s one of my favorite things about being in Lafayette. We came 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 many opportunities to collaborate and chart the way forward. While we may see these national trends of polarization, it is not fundamentally who we are as Louisianans and it should not define us as we move forward.
Michael Henderson’s chapter on “Public Opinion in Louisiana: More Change, More the Same” is one of Dr. Maloyed’s favorite chapters because Henderson explains how most people share values on political issues… much more than they are separated by being a Democrat. or Republican. We share values in Louisiana and can work together to bring about lasting change.
Women in Louisiana Politics: Barriers and Opportunities explains how women in political office can radically change the discussion around the table. An increase in the number of elected women changes the topics and perspectives that people bring to the table in legislative bodies. Diversity offers the possibility of changing the narratives of partisan politics.
The Party’s Over: Louisiana’s New Politics can be purchased from Barnes & Noble and is also available online at Amazon.