David Duke is poisonous. His political views are racist, anti-Semitic and white nationalist — and they poison America's political environment. Since being elected to a brief term in the Louisiana House of Representatives in a special election in 1989, the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and longtime neo-Nazi has attempted to rebrand himself several times, running for various offices, mostly to raise money from his fellow haters. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion and mail fraud charges related to his fundraising practices.
Now the perennial candidate is running for the U.S. Senate — inspired, he says, by the candidacy of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Duke is doing his best to yoke himself to Trump's brand of populism, from making a robo-call urging Louisiana voters to cast ballots for the two of them to criticizing Gov. John Bel Edwards for not meeting with him and Trump regarding the Louisiana floods.
Duke has not held public office in more than two decades. That hasn't stopped him from running, most famously for governor in 1991. He's also run for president, for the U.S. House and for the U.S. Senate. This Senate bid will be his third. His claims of support for Trump notwithstanding, Duke appears to have no standing in the GOP. Characterizing the robo-call as "absolutely disturbing," Trump campaign spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told Politico, "The Trump campaign has no knowledge of the campaign that David Duke is running and we have disavowed David Duke and don't condone any of the activities he is doing." (Pierson's denunciation was actually more emphatic than Trump's; earlier this year he said he wasn't familiar with Duke.) Louisiana GOP leaders also have repudiated Duke; state Republican chair Roger Villere says Duke's "history of hate marks a dark stain on Louisiana's past and has no place in our current conversation." We agree.
Today Duke is a fringe candidate, but fringe candidates can still be dangerous. That's why a 25-year-old political action committee, The Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism, was reactivated last week with a bipartisan advisory board that includes former Govs. Edwin Edwards and Buddy Roemer, former U.S. Sens. Bennett Johnston and John Breaux, former GOP Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and many other public officials and civic leaders. Tulane University professor emeritus Lawrence Powell chairs the group.
In a statement announcing the group's revival, Powell wrote, "The struggle for racial, religious and ethnic goodwill is never really done. And that's why we've decided to reactivate the Louisiana Coalition: to affirm the values of decency and civility against champions of white nationalism and racial anti-Semitism."
The coalition has a website, www.stopduke.com, and plans to run ads about Duke's past, exposing his hateful history for those who don't remember or were too young when he first slithered into the public eye. There's a danger in giving Duke any attention — it's oxygen to him — but the fact that 2016 has emboldened him to run again means his brand of hate must be addressed — again.