After voting in Louisiana for the first time in five years yesterday, I think I understand how third-party types feel now.
It's not just that the governor's race and many others were so imbalanced that they compare with many Third World nations on the healthy-democracy scale;
It's not just that what opposed races are out there tend to be between Republican and Tea Party Republican;
It's not just that half the Republicans are Democrats who turned GOP because that's what everyone's wearing this fall;
It's not just because we have a nationally ridiculed primary system that actually has "jungle" as a descriptor;
It's not just because Louisiana is home to some of the most creative, personal, vicious smear campaigns in the U.S.;
Hell, everything I could list just wouldn't be enough.
Everybody here jokes about Louisiana's model of political bizarreness, but it took me several years of voting in Missouri to truly grasp the magnitude of it. In Missouri, you don't register by party; they have open primaries where you choose a ballot (Democrat, Republican, third-party). In general elections, you fill out a Scantron-style card and slide it through a scanner. But most importantly, there's still a healthy give-and-take between parties there. It's a conservative state, but both parties represent well. You don't see incumbents switching parties as a blatant vote grab. Extremism on either side is tempered because the electorate — sit down — won't stand for it. There's none of the presumption that everyone is right or far right like there is in Louisiana. And that's what made every vote I ever cast there feel worthwhile, even when my people lost.
I didn't feel that way yesterday. Granted, I've never aligned myself with the prevailing ideologies in Louisiana; but in the past, I at least felt like I could try to check it. But it looks like Louisiana's finally finished its swing from one one-party system to another. That brief two-party interlude was fun while it lasted.
Will my vote ever count again?