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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2004

Collateral damage in the blue and red war


JUST in case we were under any delusions about whether political parties have our best interests at heart, here's a little story from Louisiana that will disabuse us of that quaint notion.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Democrat from Louisiana's 5th District is running for re-election - as a Republican.

That's not particularly surprising, considering that this member of the Blue Dog Coalition, who describes himself as "pro-life, pro-guns, and pro-business," has been voting like a Republican since winning his seat two years ago.

The state Democratic Party cried foul over the switch because he made it just before the filing deadline for the state's open primary, which left the party with only an unknown political neophyte on the ballot.

But that isn't particularly bothersome, either.

There had been speculation earlier in the year that Rep. Alexander might join the GOP, and apparently the Democrats put a lot of pressure on him not to jump ship.

That being the case, the party should have anticipated this turn of events. It gets what it deserves for not having more forethought.

As soon as the switch was announced, however, the national Republican Party abandoned its up-to-then anointed candidate, Jock Scott, and threw its considerable weight (and pocketbook) behind the one-term congressman.

Mr. Scott, a former Republican state legislator, says he's been pressured by the party to drop out, a charge the GOP naturally denies, but that's not the point.

The point is that the GOP disliked the Democrat incumbent's politics enough to target his rural, conservative, and generally Republican-voting district. But, now that he is the Republican incumbent, his politics are more than fine with the Grand Old Party.

Not that the Democrats are any better.

When they lobbied Mr. Alexander early this year not to change parties, they didn't seem to mind that he appeared to have been a Democrat more by habit than conviction.

Now, however, the state party says if it can't have him disqualified from the Nov. 2 ballot, they will seek to have him recalled if he wins re-election.

What this rather sordid affair suggests is that the Louisiana 5th District is no more than a prize in the biannual battle for national legislative supremacy.

What it suggests is that the R or D after Mr. Alexander's name matters more than the content of his political philosophy.

What it suggests is that the people of the 5th District - the ninth-poorest district in the whole country - are less important to either party than being able to paint the district red or blue on a national map.

They should be ashamed of themselves

The least they could do is pretend.

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