David Duke

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David Duke (AP photo)

David Duke (born July 1, 1950) is a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the United States, and former Louisiana State Representative. He has run unsuccessfully for the Louisiana State Senate, Governor of Louisiana, and twice for President of the United States. Duke remains a political activist within what is known as the white-nationalist movement in America. He is widely regarded as a white supremacist by a number of organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Contents

Youth, the Klan, and first campaigns

David Duke was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but his family moved soon afterwards, and after a short period of living in the Netherlands settled in Louisiana. He became interested in the white nationalist movement at an early age and joined the Klan in 1967. Duke went on to study at Louisiana State University and in 1970 formed a racist white campus-group known as the White Youth Alliance. He was involved in the campus ROTC and a year later he went to Laos and taught English to Laotian military officers.

Duke returned to LSU, graduating in 1974. He became notorious on campus for wearing a Nazi uniform and swastika paraphernalia, and holding parties on the anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler. The same year as his graduation he was elected to Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He attracted attention for trying to modernize the Klan and turn it into a modern nationalist political force. For example, he changed the title of Grand Wizard to National Director and sported a conservative suit as opposed to the traditional white robe.

In 1976, Duke sought a seat in the Louisiana State Senate as a Democrat. In 1978 he left the Klan, and two years later formed the National Association for the Advancement of White People. In 1988 he ran in the Democratic Party primary for candidate of the President of the United States. After a dismal showing in the Democratic primaries, he appeared on many state ballots as the nominee of the Populist Party , this time receiving approximately 25,000 votes in the 1988 general election.

The state house and campaign for governor

In 1989, he ran as a Republican for a seat in the Louisiana State House of Representatives. He defeated fellow Republican John Treen, the brother of David Treen, the first post-Reconstruction Republican to be elected Governor of Louisiana, by a margin of 51-49 percent. Duke's victory came despite visits to the district in support of John Treen's candidancy by President George H.W. Bush, former President Ronald Reagan, and other GOP notables.

A year later he challenged incumbent Democratic Senator J. Bennett Johnston in the open primary, receiving 44% of the vote (including over 65% of the white vote, according to exit polls). Sen. Johnston was able to win re-election (and thus avoid a direct run-off with Duke) by receiving 53% of the vote. The official candidate of the Republican Party, state senator Ben Baggert, won a mere 3% of the vote.

Duke ran for Governor as a Republican Party candidate, although never getting any official endorsement from that party. In the open primary, Duke was second to former governor Edwin Edwards in votes; thus he faced Edwards in a run-off. Duke received 32% of the vote in that intial round, pushing incumbent Republican Buddy Roemer down to third place with 27% of the vote, effectively defeating Roemer's bid for re-election. The election garnered national media attention. While Duke had a small hard-core constituency of devoted admirers, many others in Louisiana voted for him as a "protest vote", in order to register dissatisfaction with Louisiana's mainstream politicians.

Some dismissed the reports of Duke having ties to Nazi and KKK organizations as simple mud-slinging. Between the primary and the run-off election, Duke enjoyed his greatest national fame. White supremacist and far-right organizations from around the country contributed to his campaign fund. At the same time, Duke tried to distance himself from his more extreme views in public appearances while never officially repudiating them. Whenever reporters asked about his Nazi and KKK ties, Duke refused to comment and denounced the reporters for trying to dig up dirt from the past.

Meanwhile, a large anti-Duke coalition threw its support to Edwards, about whom many voters were at best lukewarm, save in comparison to Duke. Edwards was largely perceived as corrupt, but the possibility of electing Duke as governor was widely seen as far worse. A popular bumpersticker read "Vote for the Crook. It's Important". Ads and documentaries aired on television showing footage of Duke from earlier years at Klan rallies and acting as a neo-Nazi spokesman. When a reporter asked Edwards what he needed to do to triumph over Duke, Edwards replied with a smile, "Stay alive". Duke lost the election by a wide margin, but claimed "I won my constituency. I won 55% of the white vote." His total share of the run-off popular vote was 39.5%.

In 1998 he published his autobiography My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding. In 1999, he again ran as a Republican in a special election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and received 19% of the vote, thus failing to make the run-off with his third place showing.

In 2002, Duke traveled to eastern Europe to promote his book. In August he received an honorary degree from the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management in Kiev, Ukraine, (the former Soviet-era All-Union Correspondence University of Personnel Management). Whether this entitles him to use the honorific 'Doctor' or not is a matter of dispute.

Conviction and release

In December 2002, David Duke pleaded guilty to tax and mail fraud. Four months later Duke was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his crimes. Duke was also fined US$10,000, ordered to cooperate fully with the IRS, and to pay money still owed for his 1998 taxes. Following his release in May 2004, he claimed publicly that his decision to take the plea bargain was motivated by the bias that he perceived in the United States federal court system and not his guilt.

Duke was charged for what was described by prosecutors as a six-year scheme to mail thousands of his followers asking for donations. In the mail, Duke told his supporters that he was about to lose his house and his life savings. Duke raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in this campaign. However, prosecutors claim he had already sold his home, at a hefty profit, had multiple investment accounts and spent much of his money gambling at casinos.

In 2004 David Duke published his latest controversial book: Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening on the Jewish Question. While the book's title leads one to believe it is a continuation of his first autobiographical work, the book instead purports to be a collection of historical documents that detail religious beliefs of alleged "Jewish supremacism" since antiquity. The book is dedicated to the late Dr. Israel Shahak, a highly controversial professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who was an ardent critic of what he saw as "supremacist" religious teachings in modern Jewish culture. Duke denies the book is motivated by anti-Semitism.

On May 29 2004, David Duke brought together in New Orleans leaders of the "European Nationalist" movement to sign an agreement that would "mainstream our cause." The New Orleans Protocol signatories pledged to avoid violence and internecine attacks. It was immediately signed by eight white supremacist and neo-Nazi representatives, most representing organizations, including the notorious National Alliance, and Stormfront. Duke signed on behalf of his new organization, European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO).

In 2005, Duke has teamed up with Don Black of Stormfront and now delivers a one-hour webcast six days a week. Listeners of his show can ask their questions by either logging on to Stormfront's forums or sending Duke an e-mail. In addition, he tours Europe and the Middle East, promoting his book and rallying support and funding for EURO. On March 19 2005, for example, his audience at Pedro Varela's Spanish nationalist bookshop in Barcelona was disrupted by an estimated fifty protestors.

It is widely believed that Duke has undergone several rounds of plastic surgery to improve his general appearance, but he has vehemently denied this.

Works

  • Duke, David "Jewish Supremacism" (Free Speech Pr, 2003; 350 pages) ISBN 1892796058
  • Duke, David "My Awakening" (Free Speech Books, 1998; 736 pages) ISBN 1892796007

References

  • Bridges, Tyler "The Rise of David Duke" (Mississippi University Press, 1995; 300 pages) ISBN 0878056785
  • Zatarain, Michael "David Duke: Evolution of a Klansman" (Pelican Publishing Company, 1990; Gretna, Louisiana; 304 pages) ISBN 0882898175

External links

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