Immediately after Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and an early Trump supporter, tweeted: “Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders! Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!”
On the heels of the Republican Party’s Convention, Duke, promising to be a voice for “European Americans,” threw his hat into the ring to run for the Louisiana Senate seat vacated by the retiring scandal-plagued David Vitter.
“Thousands of special interest groups stand up for African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Jewish-Americans, etc. etc.,” he said in a video announcement. “The fact is that European-Americans need at least one man in the United States Senate, one man in the Congress, who will represent their rights and heritage.”
As the New Republic’s Brian Beutler recently pointed out, “Donald Trump has made people like David Duke feel as if they’re no longer on the fringes.” Conversely, Duke has spent his career trying to mainstream bigotry and xenophobia.
“David Duke, the neo-Nazi… is the consummate white nationalist opportunist,” Devin Burghart, vice president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, told me in an email exchange. “With racist ideas Duke helped incubate now getting a primetime slot on a national ticket, Duke has an opportunity to again seize headlines.”
Duke told The Daily Beast: “I’ve said everything that Donald Trump is saying and more, I think Trump is riding a wave of anti-establishment feeling that I’ve been nurturing for 25 years.”
Like Trump, one of Duke’s major issues is immigration. Somewhat like Trump, he appears to be running on a platform of mashed-up populism.
“[Duke] said immigrants are performing an ‘ethnic cleansing’ of white people, whose ancestors founded America,” the Washington Examiner reported. “He also said he would try to pass campaign reform to get big money out of politics and enforce anti-trust laws to ‘break up anti-American huge media conglomerates’.”
Duke said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years.” And declared that his “slogan remains ‘America first’,” a slogan that Trump has borrowed.
“I would say that Duke’s decision to run might be an indication of how far Donald Trump’s rather blatant cultivation of white nationalist and white supremacist political support has moved the Overton window,” Bruce Wilson, co-founder of Talk2Action and a researcher on the deep structure of the religious right, told me.
According to the National Review’s David French, the “Overton window” is a conceptdeveloped by the late Joseph Overton, a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.The “window” refers to “the range of acceptable political discourse on any given topic,” he said.
Wilson cited the case of James Edwards, who is “a close personal friend and protégé of Duke.” Edwards, who is on the boards of the virulently racist American Freedom Party and the Council of Conservative Citizens — whose website helped inspire Dylann Roof’s murder of nine Black church members in Charleston, South Carolina, last year — “got a press pass to the convention, broadcast from inside the event, and did interviews with US congressmen and other nationally prominent figures,” according to Wilson.
Duke’s name was injected early on during the GOP’s primary campaign when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump if he would accept Duke’s endorsement. The Donald maintained that he didn’t know who Duke was. It took awhile, but Trump later disavowed Duke’s support.
Meanwhile, Duke blamed the Jews for Melania Trump’s plagiarized Michelle Obama speech. According to Tablet, in a piece entitled “Did a Jewish Neocon Speechwriter Sabotage Melania Trump’s Big Speech?,” Duke wrote the following anti-Semitic screed on his personal website:
Israel’s Mossad has a motto: it is “By deception Thou Shalt Wage War.”
We know the Jewish establishment of both the NeoCon right and Democratic Left despise Donald Trump. Jewish pollster Finkelstein says that Donald Trump is the most unpopular candidate for President among Jews since David Duke’s race of 1992!
Nobody could have been so stupid as to make about five or six common quotes out of Michele Obama’s Demo convention speech just a few years before and put it [in] Melania Trump’s speech and not think it would get exposed!
This is a con job, sabotage, political character assassination plan from the get go!
Also, it seems as though the operative set up Melania, by leaking it to other Jewish media insiders who repeatedly asked her about the speech before she gave it prodding her to suggest that she came up with most of it but was helped a little by the speechwriter.
I would bet a gefilte fish that this was sabotage. I would also bet a bagel it was orchestrated by an Israel Firster who wanted to damage the American Firster.
Duke has run for office before. He was victorious and served one term in the Louisiana State House. He has also made runs — as both Democrat and Republican — for president, US senate and US congress.
“Sadly, the rhetoric of white dispossession coming out of the GOP Convention in Ohio last week was disturbingly reminiscent of Duke’s previous campaigns for public office,” said Burghart. “With those ideas having moved from the margins to the mainstream, Duke sees one more opportunity to seize power, or at least attract a new group of followers to bilk.”
Bill Berkowitz is an Oakland, California-based freelance writer covering conservative movements. He’s a cofounder of the DataCenter, a research library for social and political activists, where he published CultureWatch, a newsletter tracking right-wing movements, and in 2005, he received a Special Journalism Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.