Louisiana’s lesson: Don’t take Duke for granted BY JAMES CULLEN TEXAS REPUBLICAN LEADERS profess little concern over the potential impact of David Duke’s presidential campaign, but a Louisiana Republican official warns that the former Klansman and Nazi ideologue will surprise them if he is taken for granted. Texas Republican Chairman Fred Meyer said Duke, who sent his $5,000 filing fee and was approved as a candidate, was welcome on the ballot. “This is a free country,” Meyer said. “I just don’t see [Duke] as a significant force in Texas…. Duke is a single-digit candidate in the Texas Republican primary. The group that tends to support him is a less-educated group, and that is not a Republican strength,” the Dallas businessman told the Observer. “Louisiana is not Texas. They’ve got quite a political tradition over there,” Meyer said. Duke got 700,000 votes, 39 percent of the total in the runoff for governor against Democrat Edwin Edwards, the former governor who had the support of an unusual coalition of business leaders and minorities alarmed at Duke’s white supremacist views. “Remember President Bush ran against three real Republicans in 1988 in Texas and…carried every single congressional district and won evRepublican primary,” Meyer said. Karl Rove, an Austin-based Republican political consultant, also plays down the Duke threat. “To the extent that there are Nazi sympathizers and unreconstructed Klansmen in America today, they are not in the Republican Party,” he said of Duke’s white supremacist supporters. “Take a look at where he drew his votes. His votes were from traditionally Democratic areas such as Northeast Louisiana,” Rove said. Rove also said Louisiana’s unique election law helped Duke by putting Democrats and Republicans in a nonpartisan election, with the top two votegetters facing off in a runoff., “To equate LouiSiana politics and the weird law they have there, which encourages bizarre activity by political figures, with the rest of the United States is to equate Guatemala with Pasadena,” Rove said. “That’s a nutty state with nutty politics and a nutty set of rules.” Rove also is confident Duke’s support will net out in single digits. He said the former Klansman might have done better in the Democratic primary. “The Democratic Party rules reward these kinds of extremists and the Republican party rules punish them,” he said. In the GOP primary, a candidate must get 20 percent of the vote in a congressional district to qualify for a delegate, but only if no other candidate gets. 50 percent of the vote in that district, in which case [what?: the majority candidate takes all the district’s delegates?]. “In 1988, people with far more mainstream views than David Duke were in the single and low-double digits. David Duke is not going to get any better,” Rove predicted. Rove also dismissed the “spoiler” threat of an independent campaign by Duke in the general election. “He’s been an independent candidate once before and he didn’t pose much of a threat,” Rove said. “I see it as very marginal. If it slims down to an 1876-style presidential election, which is decided in the electoral votes by a handful of states, yes [Duke could pose a threat], but our system, especially when it comes to presidential elections, is calculated…to weed out these lunatics.” Rove noted that John Anderson, a former Illinois congressman, got nowhere in 1980, when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter. 36 JANUARY 17 & 31, 1992 “David Duke will be the same way,” he predicted. The professions of unconcern extend to the highest levels, at least on the record. Charles Black, a national consultant for President Bush, played down the Duke threat. “I don’t think the guy is going to do much. He might get a scattered protest vote,” Black told the Dallas Morning News. George W. Bush, the president’s eldest son and one of his campaign advisers, said he expects that Texas and other Southern states will clinch his father’s renomination on March 10, as the “Super Tuesday” round of primaries clinched his nomination in 1988. \(That assumes, of course, Take Duke Seriously But Beth Rickey, a member of the Louisiana Republican Central Committee from New Orleans who is a central figure concerning Duke, said Texas Republicans should not take the Duke threat lightly. “People underestimate his appeal,” said Rickey, who helped organize the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism to counter Duke’s attempt to win a mainstream political following. Bush may have an advantage in Texas because of his past ties to Midland and Houston, she said, but she believes Duke will surprise Republicans with the size of his following. “I see, from talking to people in other states, that he has a lot of appeal,” she said. While Meyer and Rove dismiss the Duke threat,. Rickey said they should work to get the word out about what Duke stands for. “It took us two years to get the message out in Louisiana about his extremism, and what scares me is that there is a short amount of time and people in other states are not going to have access to the kind of information that people in Louisiana had,” she said. She added that a simple majority for Bush will not defeat Duke. “Duke is not about winning elections; he’s about building a movement,” she said. “He would love to win an election, but he’s building a mailing list, he’s building a money machine and he also wants to profoundly change the ideas that America is founded on, and he wants to change them to racial ideas. To Duke, winning is not everything.” It probably is a mistake, Rickey said, to try to prevent Duke from getting on ballots. “I’m very sympathetic with the parties in other states that are trying to take a stand against him; but I fear that will only help him out in terms of publicity and so forth, so I think he should be allowed to participate in the process and be soundly defeated at the polls.” She believes the media should pay more attention to Duke and detail his background rather than attempt to ignore him, as the Louisiana media did in the early stages of his political career. “The genie is out of the bottle. If there were some way the media could all get together and black him out, that would be the ideal situation. But since you can’t…I think the media should focus on him, because if you shine a light on that man, what he is about will shine through.” Rickey, who has been a Republican activist for 20 of her 35 years, also believes the Republican Party needs to examine what it stands for in the wake of the Duke experience. She was disappointed that even after President Bush and the national Republican Party disavowed Duke, the Louisiana GOP Central Committee refused to denounce him. After Duke’s defeat, she noted with chagrin, the Central Committee appointed a Duke supporter to represent on the Committee a predominantly black district in Shreveport-Bossier City.