- President Obama speaks in New Orleans Sept. 3, 2012, after Hurricane Isaac. Photo by NewsHour.*
Louisiana hasn’t seen much of the presidential candidates over the past few months. President Obama and Mitt Romney have visited the state a total of six times since the Fourth of July, and most of those visits have been for fundraisers, conferences or tours of hurricane damage.
It’s not hard to see why. The Republican share of the vote in Louisiana has increased in each of the last four presidential elections, and in 2008 John McCain beat President Obama by 19 points.
The NewsHour’s Listen to Me project was on the ground in the Bayou State to gauge voters’ attitudes in advance of this year’s presidential election. No one issue dominated the discussion. The economy and health care figured prominently, as in other states, but some of the voters we talked to also mentioned race and the military as issues they were focusing on.
Still, almost all of them agreed on one thing: the political system is broken.
Some pointed the finger at the politicians. In Baton Rouge, recent college graduate Justin Wooten expressed frustration with “what they do behind closed doors.”
“These are our elected officials, and we put them in office,” Wooten said. “So I think we bear the burden of the backlash of what they do. We have to just really evaluate who we put in office.”
And for Julie Morgan in nearby St. Francisville, the problem is that the politicians “forget their roots.”
“They forget that they work for the people,” Morgan said, “and that’s sad because I think they need to stay more in touch with the people who elected them to their office.”
Some of the other voters interviewed pointed instead to problems with the broader political environment. LaSonya Byrd of Baton Rouge said racial discrimination had contributed to the partisan bickering in Washington, noting: “We’ve not had this problem until we got a black president.
“We had Bush and he did a lot of wrongdoing things,” Byrd said. “But everybody didn’t rebel against him like they’re doing against Obama.”
Frank Farmer in St. Francisville suggested that the political environment is weighed down by the impulse to dismiss any new idea that arises as radical, no matter its quality.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s any room for free and critical thinking and the process,” Farmer said, “without being marginalized immediately as a radical right-wing extremist or a left-wing extremist.”
Absentee voting in Louisiana began in late September, and early in-person voting starts on Oct. 23.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting contributed to this post.