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Republicans vs. David Duke — a political memoir.
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That’s when Nungesser yelled into the mike. “We have rules in this party!” he screamed. “The rules say the candidates don’t speak! We’re gonna follow those rules. Dat’s de way it’s gonna be, and it ain’t gonna be no udder way!”
Damned if ol’ Billy wasn’t right. This was a man who had come up the hard way, serving as a Marine during the Korean War, building a riverboat catering business from nothing, helping organize and finance the campaigns for public office of his more “Uptown” former high-school classmate David Treen, and then serving as Treen’s chief of staff when Treen became Louisiana’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction. (While in that administration, Nungesser donated his whole salary to children’s charities.) Nungesser, despite his penchant for shiny pastels and whites, was just plain tougher than most men, and he damn sure wasn’t gonna let this Kluxer steal the day.
Meanwhile, the rest of the delegates, amazingly, remained preternaturally calm amidst the turmoil. By not reacting to the intended melee, they made Duke’s followers look feckless instead of fierce, and made Duke’s subsequent meanderings on stage look pitiful rather than powerful.
The Duke forces started chanting, but Nungesser motioned to the microphone young college professor David Thibodaux, twice a loser (later to lose twice more) as a congressional candidate (although he did become a successful school board member). Thibodaux moonlighted as the charismatic lead singer for a Cajun band. He began singing “God Bless America,” sounding like nothing so much as a male angel—and the rest of the delegates joined in, drowning out the increasingly weak chants of the now-aimlessly milling Dukesters. Eventually the would-be rioters dispersed, Duke slunk away, and the convention resumed its normal proceedings.
HOLLOWAY, AS EXPECTED, garnered the official nomination, but Duke used his white Democratic base to outpace both Holloway and Roemer and qualify for a (losing) runoff against Edwards. In the end, then, Duke’s convention setback seemed to fade in importance. But Nungesser (and my father) at least had blocked Duke from claiming in any way to be a legitimate choice of the Republican Party itself—and that lack of legitimacy was one of several factors that dogged him in his losing runoff campaign.
Nungesser had done something else important that day: He had preserved the rules, rather than let Duke hijack them. The playbook for radicals has always been clear: Subvert the rules whenever necessary to gain power; change the rules when possible in order to gain any advantage, no matter how unfair. And when you can’t change or rig the rules, create a diversion and cause as much chaos as possible, to try to make the rules irrelevant. Thanks largely to Nungesser, Duke failed on all counts that day. But other radicals, far more adept, self-controlled, and politically potent, know the same playbook, and they can execute it much more skillfully.
It is the rules-changing attempts—the “card check” for union elections, the Fairness Doctrine, the loosening of protections against voter fraud, the empowerment of trial lawyers to sue enemies and of armed bureaucracies with subpoena powers to harass adversaries—that are the biggest dangers this winter and spring to conservative political comeback plans. Somehow, some way, conservatives must win those battles, to keep the rules from being changed and rigged against them. Conservatives must ensure that, despite the odds, it ain’t gonna be no udder way.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?