If the former Imperial Wizard of the KKK isn’t deplorable, who is?
When asked by Wolf Blitzer if he thought David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, was deplorable, Mike Pence said he’s, “not in the name-calling business.”
Here’s the exchange:
Duke is likely the most well-known white supremacist and neo-Nazi in the United States. As a student at Louisiana State University in the early 70s, Duke founded the White Youth Alliance, a white power group which published a paper called The Racialist. In it, Duke would muse about America’s need for, “racial salvation” which he believed would be achieved by a, “White racial alliance uniting our people with the common cause of racial idealism.”
The Anti-Defamation League has a collection of Duke’s deplorable greatest hits; here are a few low-lights: During an interview in 1985 Duke stated, “These Jews who run things, who are producing this mental illness teenage suicide, all these Jewish sicknesses, that’s nothing new. The Talmud’s full of things like sex with boys and girls.” In his 1998 book, My Awakenings, he wrote,”While helping hundreds of thousands of refugees, Red Cross volunteers undoubtedly heard stories of Nazi brutality and rumors of mass gassings and they noted those rumors and kept an eye out for any evidence of them, but they saw nothing to indicate that the rumors were true.” He wrote an editorial piece for the National Association for the Advancement of White People in 1985 in which he remarked that,”[A] black gets a job with a white-owned company. He is the only black at the firm. He works hard, but he’s fighting a losing battle against his genes.”
Duke is surface-level deplorable—we can see it immediately. He parades his bigotry for all to gawk at and deal with. And while the percentage of Trump supporters who are right in line with Duke is surely low, there’s a significant portion that practice a form of diet-white supremacy. They may not be showing up at Klan rallies, but their views on Muslims, Hispanics and African Americans are only a half-step up from Duke’s. A study by the Pew Research Center looked into how GOP voters viewed the shifting ethnic landscape in the United States, and how these views related to support for Donald Trump. They found that those who believed the, “Growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens U.S. values” had warm feelings towards Trump. As did those who think, “Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.” 63% of GOP voters who agreed with the sentiment that it’s “Bad for the country that blacks, Latinos and Asians will be majority of the population” had warm feelings towards Donald Trump.
So Pence was actually put in a bit of a tough spot with Blitzer’s question, because Hillary Clinton is absolutely correct: a percentage of Donald Trump voters, likely around half, have rather deplorable, Caucasian-centric views on race and religion. The CEO of Trump’s campaign is white nationalist and (former) Breitbart Chief Exec, Stephen Bannon, a man who shares many of the same views as Duke, he’s just better at dressing them up.
So Pence hedged, he said, “Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support, and we don’t want the support of people who think like him.” Now a number of Trump’s denunciations, apparently came before Trump was running for President, but let’s not even focus on that. Pence is playing both sides here. He doesn’t say David Duke is deplorable because that would mean potentially alienating a certain group of Trump supporters and costing his team votes. Pence tried to paint this move as taking the high road and resisting name-calling, but that’s not what this is. This is recognizing your base; this is a move to ensure the “basket of deplorables” comes to the polls in November.