Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

___

April 14

The Advocate on Louisiana's fragile position as the pandemic continues:

“A very precarious point.”

That phrase comes from Irwin Redlener, a New York physician and Columbia University professor whose name meant a lot to southeast Louisiana in the dark days after Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago.

His work providing and promoting mobile pediatric clinics was one way our little and deeply hurting world was assisted by benefactors from around the nation and the world.

Now, though, he’s talking about our precarious national situation with the coronavirus pandemic.

In an interview with The New York Times, Redlener said the decline in COVID-19 cases last winter created a false sense of security.

“The fact is that we are in a very precarious point, in that where we go from here is not at all clear,” he said. “On some level, yes, we did drop the daily infection rates and fatality rates, but we dropped them to a level that’s not exactly comforting.”

Redlener said he supported the administration’s emphasis on delivering vaccinations as quickly as possible, and its insistence on keeping mask mandates in place.

“It’s become somewhat of a cliché, but we are running a race between the vaccine and the variants,” he said. “The more time that it takes to get people vaccinated up to a herd immunity level, which people think is about 80%, the longer we’re going to see these outbreaks of COVID-19 that will inevitably create more mutations, more variants.”

It’s good advice from a New York friend of Louisiana. But our hometown heroes are sounding a similar alarm.

With some doses of life-saving vaccines going begging, the pace of inoculation against COVID-19 needs to pick up dramatically. That is not, of course, helped by what we hope is a short “pause” in use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Efforts in the private and public sectors of health care are ramping up this week. A mass vaccination site in Baton Rouge with the ability to deliver thousands of shots each day will open Monday at the Bon Carre Business Center on Florida Boulevard.

State public health officials are opening a hotline to answer any vaccination questions and promoting town halls in every region of the state to get the word out.

“We’ve hit the low-hanging fruit of people who are very anxious, ‘I want to be vaccinated yesterday,’” said Dr. Jeffrey Elder, LCMC Health medical director of emergency management who oversees the system’s mass vaccination effort at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. “Now, we’re in the trenches.”

Getting to the big percentage of Louisiana folks needed to achieve “herd immunity” against COVID-19 will take a big effort on the part of the state. Dr. Redlener’s advice is relevant to us here, once again.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com

___

April 11

The Advocate on the case against switching to closed, party-only primaries in Louisiana:

No question about it, when you go to vote in Louisiana your ballot is going to look a lot different from those in most other states.

That isn’t just about the nicknames — T-Bob, LaLa, Bubba. It’s about the sheer number of, er, statesmen offering to sacrifice themselves on the altar of public service. Not to mention salaries and legislative per diems.

Louisiana’s system is the opposite of what the political scientists call the “Australian ballot,” the shortlist of parties that voters in other countries face.

What we call the open primary is a misnomer to the political scientists. It is more properly called an all-party primary because all candidates run together, regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof.

With brief interruption in the 2008-10 election cycles for congressional races only, Louisiana has not had “closed” party-only primaries since 1975. One of Gov. Edwin W. Edwards’ innovations, he did not want to run essentially three elections as he did in 1971-72, a Democratic primary, a runoff and then a general election.

The open primary fueled the growth of the Republican Party, as it removed any penalty for registering with the GOP, so the party’s adherents could vote in all state and local elections. Only presidential primaries are open only to registered party voters.

Now, the Republican Party is the dominant force in state politics but still trails the Democrats in overall registration, probably a result of many GOP-leaning voters not bothering to change registrations because they don’t need to for most elections. And both parties want to cut into the growth of unaffiliated “independent” voters.

In both parties, there are leaders who believe that closed primaries, as those held in most other states, will give voters sharper general-election choices filtered through the party primary.

We question whether this change is needed and even if it were adopted, if it would change that much in today’s Louisiana.

From the U.S. Capitol to the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, voters are increasingly sharply divided in terms of party identification. Voters are partifying, to coin a word, by themselves.

For strongly committed conservatives in the GOP, or liberals among the Democrats, there are calculations that party primaries — often, lower in turnout than general elections — will allow election of “purer” partisans.

No system is perfect. In Louisiana we’ve lived through cases in which a slew of candidates in the open primary tended to draw votes from moderate voters, thus favoring the more extreme ends of the political spectrum: the unspeakable David Duke and the comeback kid of 1991, Edwin Edwards. Runoff from hell, indeed.

Louisiana really does not need party primaries, that we can see. And we wonder if voters, who now get a colorful political buffet, want legislators to limit their choices to please the limited constituencies of the party organizations.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com