The headline to the New York Times article says it all: “Much of David Duke’s ’91 Campaign Is Now in Louisiana Mainstream.” Would you be surprised if I told you that this is nothing more than a dishonest hit piece?
The article has a simple premise. Readers know what a vile racist David Duke is. Because mostly-Republican Louisiana has embraced Duke’s 1991 platform from his gubernatorial campaign, therefore Louisiana is a vile racist state. The jumping off point for the article is the story that Representative Steve Scalise spoke to a meeting that one of Duke’s close aides held in 1992. That story has been seriously questioned, although you wouldn’t know it from the Times, which has not issued a correction or update.
There are only two flaws with the article. The first is that the fact that even evil politicians have ideas that non-evil people can embrace. For example, without stooping to malign American Progressives by calling them “Nazis,” look at how many economic ideas from the Nazi party American Progressives embrace:
Nazi economic policy was largely based on fascist economic theories. In fascism, resources and production are managed for the greater benefit of the state, rather than to increase profit, wages or standards of living. Fascist governments control production and manufacturing, dictating what is produced and for what purposes. There is also considerable government control over the allocation of resources, such as land and raw materials. Unlike socialism, fascism is not opposed to private ownership of capital, provided that business owners are co-operative and do not resist state control. In fascist economic systems, such as Mussolini’s Italy, economics is considered a partnership between the state and private-owned corporations.
One could go on, comparing such things as socialized medicine (Nazis and Progressives like it), as well as the obsession with state control over individual choices so as to grind out vice. (For more comparing the “nanny” side, rather than the killer side, of Nazism to modern American Progessivism you can’t do better than to read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change)
Even though American Progressives and Hitler’s Nazis share many of the same political ideas, there’s a reason we don’t insult Progressives by calling them “Nazis”: The “Nazi” label is a serious insult, not because of its socialist politics, but because of the Nazi obsession with bloody war and racial genocide and enslavement. Last I looked, American Progressives were big on the garden-variety socialism that the Nazis liked too, but they hadn’t started begging for blitzkriegs and death camps. I may not like the politics that American Progressives espouse, but they’re not Nazis. (Interestingly, though, they do have the same race obsessions as the Nazis and, scarily, they’re making headway on the antisemitism. One wonders if those vices are hard-wired into socialism, whether one initially wants them there or not.)
The key takeaway is that, even if you share some political, social, and economic beliefs with a bad actor, that doesn’t make you a bad actor — provided that you don’t share the ugly stuff. When it comes to tarring Republicans, the New York Times ignores that distinction.
The second flaw is that, if you actually read beyond the lede, the article provides no evidence whatsoever that Louisiana embraced the uglier parts of Duke’s 1991 platform. Instead, the article offers a single apples to oranges comparison, and then pretends that they’re both the same fruit. A mild fisking is now in order:
Mr. Duke supported forcing welfare recipients to take birth control. Now there are near-perennial attempts by members of the Louisiana Legislature to give welfare recipients drug tests.
Do you see any correlation whatsoever between forcing welfare recipients to take birth control (which could be construed as a eugenics thing because a disproportionate number of blacks are on welfare), versus mandating drug tests to ensure that Louisiana voters aren’t subsidizing voluntary behavior that leads to an inability to work? I don’t. Incidentally, back in 1991 welfare was structured to give female welfare recipients a cash incentive to have children out-of-wedlock, Duke wasn’t the only one back in the day seeking ways to disincentivize welfare recipients from having out-of-wedlock children. Indeed, in 1991 there were a lot of problems with welfare, so many that, in 1994, driven by the voter wave that placed Republicans in control of Congress, Bill Clinton signed a bill ending “Welfare as We Know It.” The bill’s purpose was to do away with welfare’s perverse incentives, including the bonuses for babies part of welfare.
And that’s my fisking. Done. Because despite the fact that the article purports to compare Duke’s 1991 platform to modern Louisiana politics, that misshapen comparison is the only thing to emerge. The only other point one gets about Duke’s platform is a vague, conclusory statement:
After being elected to the state House of Representatives in 1989, Mr. Duke filed nine bills, including measures implementing stricter guidelines for residents of public housing, repealing affirmative action programs and eliminating minority set-asides.
Following that generalization, instead of the promised comparison, the rest of the article focuses on Scalise, offering a debate as to whether he’s a racist politician in the Duke mode or a racist politician in the Republican mode.
In other words, the article is the usual tawdry, lazy, dishonest hit piece that takes up so much space in the New York Times. It did its work, though, since a couple of New York Times readers I know told me that, by being a conservative, I’m no better than David Duke, America’s most famous KKK-er.