Well, there is more brewing down in the bayou. The Louisiana Nazis Who Courted Steve Scalise http://t.co/XI2GMq1VkQ via @thedailybeast
— Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) January 4, 2015
So why the change? It's true that Duke's organization wasn't either Nazi or neo-Nazi, but it's charge that's always thrown around recklessly. If you say that a Communist is a Communist, you're a "McCarthyite", but anyone can be called a Nazi without consequences.
Anyhow, Jason Berry, who's been following Duke for a while, talks about how Duke first got elected...as Republican state representative.
That year, a state representative in Metairie, an affluent Jefferson Parish suburb just across the line from New Orleans, vacated his seat to become a judge. The off-year special election into which Duke threw himself drew little media notice at first. Duke, who touted himself as a pro-life fiscal conservative, was known as an ex-Klan leader; he eschewed overtly racist language and instead pointed to crime in the city, criticizing affirmative action and minority set-asides. He landed in a runoff with John Treen, a silver-haired homebuilder, GOP stalwart and brother of the state’s first Republican governor, Dave Treen, who had left office in 1983.Emphasis added by me. So Duke wasn't running a neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate campaign—he was running on the totally legitimate anti-crime, anti-quota issues that George Bush, Sr. and the national GOP were totally failing to either do anything about, or run on.
Media coverage failed to probe the depth of Duke’s ties to neo-Nazi groups. But as national Republican strategist Lee Atwater and others realized, Duke’s background would be a stigma for the party if he won. So then-President George H.W. Bush and other prominent Republicans endorsed Treen in the House runoff. George W. Bush made a campaign appearance for Treen. Yet Treen was a poor match for Duke in the sound-bite department, or in appealing to the latent racial fears of many voters in Metairie, which was at the time a classic Reagan Democrats enclave. They liked what Duke was saying and were willing to look beyond what little they knew of his past.
How legitimate was the crime issue in the New Orleans area in 1989? CNN says
That was what Jason Berry, above, refers to as "the latent racial fears of many voters in Metairie", although it was CNN in 2012, by the way, not Duke in 1989, that was emphasizing the blackness of the crime.
The city's black communities began changing in the 1980s as oil companies, still among the city's biggest employers, began consolidating operations and moving jobs out of New Orleans. At the same time, many black communities in the United States were witnessing the proliferation of crack cocaine.
Statistics show the murder count in New Orleans began climbing, from about 150 in 1985, to more than 250 in 1989, to almost 400 by 1993. Police say the murder rate has been seven to 10 times the national average for three decades. In the mid-1990s, tallying 300 to 400 murders a year was common.[Fed up, New Orleans looks to shake Murder City title, By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN, March 3, 2012]
The lesson for the national GOP is that if you don't want to have fringe, Third Party types taking your votes, then do your damned job.