Opinion: David Duke needs to be taken seriously


Donald Trump’s fervent support could spill over to help David Duke in Louisiana’s senate race. Photo credit: Evan Vucci / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Nick Reimann

Mass communication junior & Worldview editor

[email protected]

If you think that a neo-Nazi, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People can’t win an election in 2016, you’re wrong. At least, as long as that neo-Nazi is David Duke and he’s on the ballot in Louisiana.

Duke, who has largely been out of the political spotlight since losing to Edwin Edwards in the runoff of the 1991 Louisiana governor’s race, has spent most of the past couple of decades traveling around Europe and promoting books he has authored, such as “Jewish Supremacism” and “My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding.”

During this time, Duke found himself under arrest in the Czech Republic on suspicion of “denying or approving of the Nazi genocide and other Nazi crimes,” and has been expelled from Italy, only because Italy was following Switzerland’s suit, which had already banned him from living in that country.

But that’s history now. It’s 2016, and Duke is back where he gained his fame—thick in the fray of Louisiana politics. And what I mean by “thick in the fray” is that he can win. Seriously, David Duke has a shot of being the next U.S. senator from the state of Louisiana.

There are two factors that make this possible—Duke’s past performance in elections and the dynamics of the 2016 senate race.

On his past, it’s not like Duke is new to controversy. When he first started seeking office in the 1980s, Duke was fresh off of his days in the Klan and was already a well-known figure among LSU students for wearing a Nazi uniform around campus during his time there in
the 1970s.

That didn’t stop him then, as Duke won a special election to fill a seat in the Louisiana House in 1988. While serving in office representing his Metairie district, Duke ran for the U.S. Senate in 1990, but failed to make the runoff after receiving 43 percent of the vote in the primary.

Then came the famous 1991 governor’s election, where Duke suffered a landslide loss to former governor Edwin Edwards in the runoff, receiving 39 percent of the vote.

Duke has not been in as bright of a spotlight since. He sought the Republican nomination for president in 1992, but received less than 1 percent of the vote. He then ran for senate again in 1996, getting 12 percent of the vote, before losing his most recent major campaign, when he received 19 percent of the vote in a 1999 U.S. house race.

While Duke has never held a statewide majority, in all of the races he has run solely within the state of Louisiana (excluding his presidential campaigns, in other words), Duke has never received below 11 percent of the vote. The question now is whether that bloc of voters still exists; because if it does, that might be all that he needs to win.

There will be 24 candidates on the ballot for senator in Louisiana in 2016. Since recent election results suggest that around 40 percent of the vote will go to Democrats, we can expect that to be split pretty evenly between two strong Democratic candidates—Caroline Fayard and Foster Campbell.

The rest should be split along the Republican side, which has an extremely strong field that includes two sitting U.S. representatives, a former U.S. representative and the current state treasurer. This will result in a heavily split vote, with the most recent poll of the race showing 15 percent enough to be in first place.

Then there is the Trump factor. Trump is likely to run away with Louisiana in the presidential election, a result Duke believes will help him.

Duke claims that he shares many views with Trump, and while this is certainly questionable, what cannot be questioned is Duke’s support
for Trump.

Since Duke has qualified for the next debate, he will be able to articulate that he has supported Donald Trump from the start. That’s a powerful message in Louisiana.

In the runoff, and in a 2016 election that will likely see Donald Trump run away with Louisiana, it’s not impossible to think Duke could win. Although Trump has disavowed Duke’s support, on the question of whether he would endorse a Democrat in the runoff against Duke, Trump responded: “It depends on the Democrat.” That’s the political world we live in today, one where it’s possible for David Duke to be elected to the senate.

So, if you think that being expelled from Italy and being arrested on suspicions of Nazi sympathy should disqualify someone from being fit to hold elected office, you’d seem to be a reasonable person, but alas, that seems to be a shrinking demographic these days.