November 25, 2003


Duking Bobby Jindal (John Tabin, 11/18/2003, American Spectator)

"If there was a racist backlash against Jindal anywhere, it would be in north Louisiana, in Duke country," Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis told Rod Dreher of National Review Online after the race. To some extent, Blanco laid the groundwork for a such a backlash herself. She dusted off her maiden name and campaigned as Kathleen Babineaux Blanco. Voters encountered the full name on the ballot, where her opponent was listed as "Bobby" Jindal, complete with quotation marks (Jindal's given name is Piyush). Appealing to tribal instincts in the only state where Frenchness is still considered a virtue, Blanco's packaging of herself was designed to make it clear who had the deeper roots in Cajun country.

Such tapping of identity politics for ethnic whites is nothing particularly unusual or scandalous. The shamrock incorporated into Irish-American candidates' names is a staple of local politics across much of the Midwest and Northeast. It would be unfair to suggest that Blanco ran a racist campaign. At the same time, isn't it worth noting that the usual suspects, to whom unfairness rarely gives pause, haven't so much as raised an eyebrow?

It might be useful to file this case away as a yardstick for the future. There was a small amount of coverage of northern Louisiana's racial politics during the race -- Adam Nossiter's AP dispatch from last Friday, a set of quotes culled to make the town of Amite, Louisiana, sound as awful as possible (sample: "Really, you got a foreigner and a woman. So it's a hard choice to make"), was typical -- but the "Babineaux Blanco" appeal to "Duke country" has gone mostly unnoticed. The next time Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or Kweisi Mfume or any similar rabble-rouser announces a whiff of racism (or "racial insensitivity"), measure the grievance cited against this non-event. The comparison might be illuminating.

Nothing wrong with playing racial politics so long as you don't try to maintain you're virginal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 25, 2003 8:34 PM

Come to think of it, the last three politicians that have tried to make hay with the Confederate Flag (that I have heard of) are Dems: There is Dean, the state assemblyman in Ga who survived the GOP tsunami in 2002 (run off), and wasn't Musgrove also wrapping himself around the flag? Did not hear much on any of this from Kwame.

Posted by: MG at November 25, 2003 10:16 PM

Two problems with this:

North Louisiana is stumpjumper territory; which is to say, WASPs, not Cajuns. Traditionally speaking, they think as ill of Cajuns up there as they think of Indians.

Second, where Blanco scored well was in real Cajun country, like Iberia Parish. That's where her name helped her.

Posted by: Chris at November 26, 2003 8:16 AM

I agree with Chris, northern Louisiana is full of Baptists. It is more like the rest of the south (Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, etc..), as opposed to southern Louisiana which has Catholics including Cajuns. The two are different.

Posted by: pchuck at November 26, 2003 9:33 AM

Using veiled implications--"code words," if you will--to shore up white Southern voters against a dark-skinned candidate? Seems to me I've heard about things like that before from, who?

Posted by: AC at November 26, 2003 2:38 PM