Just when you thought politics couldn’t get any crazier, neo-Nazi and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke resurfaced to run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Actually, I need to add two more items to Duke’s resume: convicted felon and admitted fraud.
Duke pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion in 2002, after defrauding his own political supporters for years. He was sentenced to 15 months in jail. He served his time, wrote a political tome that he doubtless hoped would be his version of Mein Kampf (he is known to have celebrated Adolf Hitler’s birthday), then left the country for several years to purvey his brand of racism and anti-Semitism in the friendlier environs of Russia and the Middle East. In 2005, he got a Ph.D. from a Ukrainian private university that has been dubbed “the University of Hate.” These days he refers to himself as Dr. David Duke.
Now he’s returned to Louisiana and apparently feels the time is right for his political comeback. For those too young to remember, Duke gained political legitimacy in 1989 by registering as a Republican and winning a special election to the Louisiana House of Representatives.
He served less than one term before losing a U.S. Senate race in 1990. Sensing he could not win his House seat again, Duke ran for governor in 1991 against incumbent Gov. Buddy Roemer and former Gov. Edwin Edwards. He made the runoff against Edwards, giving rise to one of the most memorable bumper stickers in American history: “Vote for the crook — it’s important.”
Duke also ran for president in the Republican primaries in 1992 — winning not a single delegate. He later lost more races for president, Congress and the U.S. Senate.
If Duke manages to squeeze into the Senate runoff this year — and that’s a distinct possibility with so many candidates in the race — we could see a new twist on that famous bumper sticker: “Vote against the crook — it’s important.”
This much is certain: Duke will not be Louisiana’s next U.S. senator. He could, however, play a major role in electing our next senator. If he should make the runoff, his opponent — whoever he or she might be — will be a shoo-in. I don’t often make such predictions, but this one is easy. If Duke couldn’t beat Edwin “The Crook” Edwards at the height of his own popularity, how’s he going to win now with a federal felony conviction hanging around his neck?
Remember: The people Duke defrauded were his own supporters. They sent him money when he claimed to be in financial straits — then he used the loot to go on gambling sprees. Real classy guy.
His candidacy could be a boon to Democrats, because there are far more high-profile Republicans than Democrats in the Senate race. In the meantime, Duke will do what he always has done: raise money by spreading lies, hate, fear and anger — while claiming he’s a victim.
It will be interesting to see how many suckers are still out there.
Clancy DuBos is publisher of New Orleans' Gambit.