Editorial: Extreme views can be tempered by center

To hear some folks talk, Louisiana is a virtual hotbed of Republican right-wingers, with the GOP holding firm to power in

the Governor’s Mansion, Senate, House and among our national delegation. Sounds overpowering for conservatives, no?

But a 2012 Gallup poll released

recently suggests that while Louisiana is a Top 10 conservative state,

it trails other, perhaps

less likely conservative prospects like North Dakota, Wyoming and

Idaho. That’s based on residents’ own perceptions of their

political ideology.

This, too, is of interest: While

Louisiana ranks high for its self-identified conservatism, our people’s

conservative principles

may not always track toward the Republican Party at the polls that

really matter — those that open to voters on Election Day.

That’s because while 45.6 percent of our state’s voters say they

are politically conservative, fewer say they are Republican.

Louisiana, according to Gallup, is not a Top 10 Republican state.

The same holds true for our

neighbors in Mississippi and in Arkansas. Mississippi ranked No. 4 in

self-professed conservatism,

with 48.2 identifying themselves as conservatives; Arkansas ranks

No. 9 in self-described conservatism, right behind Louisiana.

But neither of those is a Top 10 Republican state.

That may suggest to Democrats,

generally perceived as the more liberal party, that states like our own

can still be in play

come election time. Yes, the Democrats have experienced a tough,

downhill slide in recent elections in Louisiana, but Republicans

are not necessarily a majority here.

The key to victory — this holds

true for both parties — still seems to rest in appealing to the

self-described political moderates.

Longtime liberal Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts once

described moderates as liberals who were up for reelection.

And the Gallup poll suggests that more Americans, at least in

their own minds, are shifting a step leftward politically. In

Louisiana, some 34.8 percent of voters perceive themselves as

residing in the political middle — and a moderate in this state

may be very different from a moderate elsewhere. In Mississippi,

one-third of poll respondents described themselves as being

in the political middle. In Arkansas, 33.5 percent say they are in

squarely in the center.

None of this is bad, of course. The political ideologies of interested, responsible voters may vary. People benefit when two

(or more) political parties actively compete for their votes. They benefit when two or more candidates provide thoughtful

platforms and political stances to all voters, paying heed to the preferences of those in the middle. Extreme views can be

tempered by the political center, whose votes keep the ship of state sailing smoothly down the middle of the channel, not

veering too sharply, left or right.

Oh, the most conservative state? Alabama, No. 1 in so many darn things.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.