Check out this news report:
“As a Louisiana state representative, David Duke supported sterilization of welfare mothers, and distributed copies of the white separatist novel The Turner Diaries from his legislative offices.
“Yet in the early stages of the 2008 Republican presidential race, some social conservatives are adopting Duke, because he’s asking for their votes.
“In his speech to CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference] Friday, Duke avoided any discussion of differences with deep-dyed conservatives. He quoted Ronald Reagan, “My 80 percent ally is not my 20 percent enemy. What he meant by that is we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. You and I have a lot of common beliefs that are the same and we have some that are different…. We do believe in many of the same things, I’m sure.”
“Duke’s speech seems to have made an impact, if the straw poll conducted of CPAC activists is any indicator. The first number indicates the number of “votes” a candidate gained overall, the second their votes as first choice, the last number their votes as second choice.
“Duke 34% (17%) [16%]
Romney 30% (21%) [9%]
Gingrich 30% (14%) [16%]
Brownback 24% (15%) [8%]
McCain 20% (12%) [8%]
Tancredo 9% (< 5%) [5%]
Huckabee 8% (< 5%) [6%]
Hunter 7% (< 5%) [5%]
Paul 6% (< 5%) [< 5%]
Gilmore 6% (< 5%) [< 5%]”
I imagine that the alert reader might have noticed something strange about the “news” story above, which was gently adapted from an MSNBC news story about Rudolph Giuliani’s star performance at CPAC last weekend. Of course, it would be appalling if David Duke were to win the support of mainstream conservatives, who were willing to overlook the “20 percent” of issues on which they disagree with him, in order to snag an electable candidate.
Believe me, I know how awful that would be, because I remember when it happened. I was there. It was 1991, in the governor’s race, in Louisiana. Faced with the possibility that the corrupt (since imprisoned) populist Democrat Edwin Edwards might be reelected, millions of ordinary, conservative Louisiana voters—disgusted by crime that had driven them out of cities like New Orleans, angry at abusive affirmative action—lined up behind the ex-Klan leader David Duke.
Now it might be easy for some of you Yankees to write this off as a “Southern” aberration—until you remembered that great rebirth of the Klan in the 1920s took place in states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
It was unsettling. People I’d met at church, who claimed to be solid Catholics, found themselves lining up behind a politician who favored pressuring welfare mothers to undergo surgical implants of the dangerous contraceptive Norplant. They were so desperate to win, so angry at leftist political elites, and so appalled at Edwin Edwards (an unapologetic crook who makes Bill Clinton look like Aleksandr Solzshenitsyn), that they were willing to overlook the “20 percent” of issues on which they disagreed with Duke. Conversely, liberals who loathed Edwards’ corruption bought bumper stickers and slapped them on their Volvos that read: “Vote For the Crook—It’s Important.”
As the most prominent conservative columnist on campus—I was finishing my graduate degree at LSU in Baton Rouge—I’m sure I alienated many of my silent supporters when I came out in the campus paper and endorsed Edwin Edwards, the very first (and last) Democrat to win my vote. Indeed, the girl I dated briefly at the time sported a David Duke bumper sticker in her room. She wasn’t a Nazi, a Klan fan, or even a racist—just a thinly principled, visceral conservative eager to win—like all those Komsomol kids at CPAC. She was willing to overlook the “20 percent” of issues on which she differed from David Duke—however important they were.
So were millions of other decent Louisianans: While Duke lost the election, he won a solid majority of the white vote. Edwards got back the governor’s mansion, and didn’t leave until he’d pried the last piece of copper pipe out of the walls to sell for scrap. But at least the Louisiana Republican party wasn’t taken over by the Klan.
And I continued to splash around in the murky bayou that is Louisiana politics. I was, by 1995, writing my Ph.D. dissertation on the critique of Cartesian scientism implicit in the novels of Walker Percy—just the stuff for a DaVinci Code-style best seller, but the thing still wasn’t finished—and living on $800 a month scraped from writing articles about business incubators and ostrich farms for the Baton Rouge Business Report. I drove a 1980 sky-blue station wagon with no a/c, no radio, and a tailgate tied shut by twine, and subsisted on red beans and Dixie. In other words, things were good. One day, a friend of mine from the local Latin Mass told me about a gubernatorial candidate with solid views, a lot of money, and not a snowball’s chance at Shiloh of winning—a conservative Democrat who was prolife and pro-gun (he favored laws allowing concealed-carry for non-felons, just to even the playing field). His name was Mike Foster.
So one Sunday after we left the Tridentine liturgy in the ghetto, the off-key Gregorian chant still ringing in our ears, we drove out to Franklin, La., in the middle of the sugar fields, to attend a campaign barbecue for this dark horse candidate. As I scarfed down as much pulled-pork as they would give me—I’d almost forgotten the taste of meat—I got talking to Roy Fletcher, the raucous, foul-mouthed, brilliant political consultant Foster had hired. (Fletcher roomed in college with James Carville, but hadn’t quite picked up his blueblood polish.) As I swilled some sweet tea, I shared with Fletcher my idea for the Foster campaign. “Well, you ought to switch parties. We don’t have any decent Republicans to choose from. But the main thing you need to do is to make the most of this prolife, pro-gun stance. You ought to make up a bumper sticker with a picture of a fetus pointing a .45 at an abortionist holding a scalpel. It needs to read: ‘Arm the Unborn.’”
Fletcher roared like a bear (this meant, I learned later, he was laughing) and as we rode home from Franklin, he passed us on I-10 at about 110 mph, leaned out the window, and screamed: “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrm the Unborn, Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa- wwwwwwdaaaaaaaa- mmmmmmit!” The next day, I was hired as press secretary. Foster switched parties—Fletcher had already been thinking about that, I don’t get credit—and after a savagely clever media campaign conducted by Fletcher against various “moderate Republicans,” won the election. They never used my bumper sticker, though.
One good side effect of this election was that Foster got the conservative vote instead of David Duke. In fact, this race ended Duke’s political career. Foster had high approval ratings even among black Democrats, and helped put the state’s finances into order. I was proud that I’d played a tiny part in that, and delighted that Foster did a fine job as governor—and after four years of Edwin Edwards, the state needed it. I also helped arrange Foster’s cross-endorsement of Pat Buchanan in the Louisiana primary. Louisiana was one of the only states to back Buchanan—we knocked Phil Gramm out of the race—and I was elected as one of Pat’s alternate delegates at the 1996 Republican National Convention.
If the Duke phenomenon in 1991 creeped me out, today I am every bit as disturbed today to see “mainstream” conservatives line up behind a candidate, Rudolph Giuliani, whose “20 percent” includes support for gay “marriage,” the final nail in the coffin of the sacrament (no-fault divorce did most of that job, of course—and Rudy has taken full advantage of that one, enabling his many public adulteries). Genius political strategists like Jonah Goldberg—who sagely advised conservatives in 2003 to abandon the “losing” issue of opposing gay unions, in favor of “winning” issues like the Iraq War—now scrawl mash notes to Rudy the drag queen, and try to solidify his position as front runner. He is, you see, “solid” on fighting “terrorism” by guarding the border. Not the U.S. border, of course—he wants to leave that wide open. But Rudy’s eager to station our soldiers to defend the border dividing Iraq from Syria.
What else is in that poisonous 20%? Amnesty for illegal aliens. Whatever the weasel words he’s using now, Giuliani has consistently supported amnesty and welfare benefits for illegals. Indeed, as mayor of New York, Giuliani made the city a virtual “sanctuary” for those who’ve snuck into our country, forbidding NYC police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. As one of the members of 9/11 Families for A Secure America (composed of family members of Sept. 11 victims) pointed out to me over dinner, if Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker on 9/11, had been arrested in NYC on September 10 for overstaying his visa, Rudolph Giuliani would have let him go. “He would have released the man who murdered my son,” one of the grieving dads told me, blinking back tears of rage.
And then there’s abortion. Once an ostensibly pro-life Catholic, Giuliani decided to shed such high-minded baggage to win election in New York City, and he hasn’t looked back since. Now Giuliani is the leader of the faction in the Republican party which supports abortion on demand. (Like most philanderers, he finds it a handy fallback.) This issue, the most profound moral scandal since the slave trade, trumps everything else in the minds of millions of voters—as it does in mine. By comparison with abortion, with the conscious, voluntary murder of over a million children a year, every other issue is essentially a fart in a bath tub. Indeed, more innocent Americans die every day through abortion than died on September 11, 2001—or in the Iraq War which followed.
I know this, and so do the Christians of every denomination who left the Democratic party over the Life issue in the 1970s. The so-called “Reagan Democrats,” like my parents—who voted consistently against their economic interests, against the advice of their labor union newsletters and a lifetime of sympathy with big-city, socially conservative Democrats like Mayor Daley and Robert Casey—remember why they switched parties. They know why their pastors and bishops rent buses for the March for Life, and conduct voter drives before election day. They remember when the Republican party was almost solidly pro-abortion, when Nelson Rockefeller pulled strings behind the scenes. Some of us even know that it was the 1972 Rockefeller Commission report on “overpopulation” which convinced Harry Blackmun to switch his position on abortion—and go on to write the infamous decision in Roe v. Wade.
We know that if Giuliani wins the Republican nomination—even if he goes on to lose, as almost any Republican who supports the Iraq War is doomed to do—this will mean the end of the prolife dominance over the party. The power in party circles will shift back to the dusty old Rockefeller wing, the elitists who sniff disdainfully at us “rednecks” for voting on the social issues, who have wet dreams about sterilizing the poor. This faction, shoved aside by the advent of Ronald Reagan, and the millions of Catholics and Evangelicals he led for the first time in history into the Republican party, will take power once again. It will be as if Ronald Reagan had never existed.
Think that’s impossible? It’s what happened to the Democrats—who as recently as 1973 were largely prolife. It was not a massive shift of opinion among Democratic voters that turned the party of Al Smith into the party of Gloria Steinem; it was women like Bella Abzug, ideologues who worked behind the scenes and used internal maneuvers to quash every prolife candidacy, to starve prolifers of funds, and rig primaries to close avenues of advancement to prolife Democrats. Indeed, by 1992, a prolife governor of a major electoral state, Pennsylvania, was not even permitted to speak at the Democratic Convention.
The same thing could happen to the Republican Party. Even now, the Bush machine uses internal power in this way to keep out candidates who want to build a border fence, or enforce employer sanctions on those who employ illegals. If a pro-abortion candidate wins the nomination—not to mention, God forbid, the White House—he will use the levers of party power to marginalize and quash social conservatives at every turn. And then we will have no political representation in America. We’ll be relegated to backing third-party candidates, or begging for pitiful crumbs like “parental notification” and a ban on partial birth abortion—rife with exceptions, of course, for things like a woman’s mental health.
We will be left in the wilderness, like supporters of Prohibition, black separatists, neo-Confederates, and those who still believe that Dwight Eisenhower was part of the Worldwide Communist Conspiracy. That is where the socially liberal Republican elites think we belong.
Such an outcome is far more dangerous to the prolife and the conservative cause than the election of Barak Obama or Hilary Clinton. Those Democrats just want to beat us in an election. Men like Rudolph Giuliani want to destroy us. The Democrats of this world are merely our opponents. The Giulianis are our enemies.
I’m not sure if arming second-trimester fetuses is the best plan for beating them, but I’m game to give it a try.
John Zmirak is author of The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living
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