Over the weekend, as we prepared for both 9/11 commemorative services and the kickoff of the regular NFL season, I saw yet another cable news spokesmodel invoking the name of David Duke. The context, as I’m sure you could already guess, was part of a discussion of Donald Trump and what a terrible person he must be. David Duke supports him! And Trump is riling up racists and bringing on a new Jim Crow era, at least if you listen to these expert political analysts. How else do you explain this resurgence in the former Klansman’s appeal?
But the fact is that outside of a few dead-enders in racist clubs, nobody is supporting David Duke except the people who have the most to benefit by tying him to Donald Trump. Even the New York Times unintentionally made this point recently.
It has so far been a mostly humdrum race for Louisiana’s open United States Senate seat, likely to end in a victory for some veteran officeholder: the Republican state treasurer, one of the congressmen, maybe even, in a surprise, a Democratic public service commissioner.
But there have been gritted teeth across the state that the one candidate who has drawn by far the most attention, nationally and even internationally, is the one whom pollsters give virtually no chance, whose own party has publicly dismissed as a “hate-filled fraud” and whose unfavorability ratings approach those of North Korea’s. That candidate is a previous nine-time political contender, and eight-time also-ran, David Duke.
I doubt there’s anyone at the Gray Lady interested enough in helping Donald Trump’s cause to the point where they’d even spit on him if his legendary hair were on fire, but they’re unintentionally making an important point here. People in Louisiana have good reason to be gritting their teeth as the author describes it. Why? Because you hear about David Duke in the media constantly, even while the parties in Louisiana are trying to hold a serious election in which Duke is simply not a factor.
In this recent poll, even in a safely Republican state like Louisiana, you can’t find two people out of ten who would say they approve of him at all and almost nobody is willing to vote for him either in a primary or the general election. And Duke gets more support from black voters than the GOP presidential candidate in his home state. What that should be telling you is that the mirage being created by the press is precisely that… vaporware. Even if you choose to buy into the hype about Trump being a racist who’s hoping to bring on the next race wars it’s certainly not showing up around the country. If it were, David Duke would surely be at least more popular than Kim Jong-un. (He’s not.)
This is a media fabrication designed to damage Donald Trump’s chances at the presidency and nothing more. It’s true that The Donald did himself no favors by falling into traps during early interviews when asked about Duke, and cable television grabbed that ball and ran with it. But for those with short memories, that entire affair boiled over after one interview with Jake Tapper. And Tapper asked him a very general question in terms of not only David Duke or the Klan, but “groups” in general. (Emphasis added for clarity)
[TAPPER] “But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don’t want their support?”
[TRUMP] “Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.
There was no support for David Duke offered. Not then and not at any point since. But that momentary failure to recognize what the media can do with an answer that isn’t poll tested by a group of professional campaign staffers is all it took, and the “Trump loves David Duke” meme was born. Yet as the polls above show – and the New York Times themselves wound up pointing out – there is no army of supporters out there cheering on both Trump and David Duke. The Klansman is an unwanted piece of history except around cable news discussion panels.