Oct 292018

Advocate political reporter Tyler Bridges (right) and Tulane historian Lawrence Powell (left) engage in conversation about Bridges’ new book at Octavia Books Thursday, Oct. 25. Bridges’ book, “The Rise and Fall of David Duke” is an update of his 1995 book “The Rise of David Duke.” (photo by Nicholas Reimann for UptownMessenger.com)

By Nicholas Reimann for UptownMessenger.com

The journalist that’s covered essentially the entire political career of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke said it’s clear the man himself has no political future — even as many of the ideas he ran on in the early 1990s are now gaining wider acceptance by mainstream politicians.

Current Advocate and former Times-Picayune political reporter Tyler Bridges shared those thoughts at Octavia Books Thursday, as he and Lawrence Powell — Tulane historian and co-founder of the anti-Duke Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism — met for conversation about Bridges’ new book, “The Rise and Fall of David Duke.”

The book is actually an update of Bridges’ 1995 book called “The Rise of David Duke,” which came out just a few years after Duke’s ascension to national prominence following races for Louisiana governor and U.S. senator that drew him hundreds of thousands of votes.

Though Duke remained active promoting white nationalism after gaining fame in the 1990s, he largely took a back seat in terms of active political campaigning.

That is, until Donald Trump decided to run for president.

Seeing similarities between his own rhetoric in the early 1990s and Trump’s language on the campaign trail, Duke felt it might finally have been his time to win statewide elected office.

But, in 2016, Duke would not be able to draw the crowds of hundreds as he regularly did campaigning across the state in the 1990s — crowds Bridges said no one else running in Louisiana could match.

Instead, Duke was only able to muster a measly 3 percent of the vote on Election Day, even though the candidate he so fervently supported would go on to become president of the United States. That’s when Bridges decided “I’ve got to write an updated version about him [Duke].”

“David Duke by now is so unbelievably toxic politically,” Bridges said of Duke’s own doomed 2016 campaign.

His ideas, though, resonated with voters stronger than ever. Things like border security, distrust in media and skepticism of international trade deals — views Duke espoused for decades — became major talking points for Republican candidates across the country, in an election that saw the party take control of the White House and maintain both chambers of Congress.

“These days conservatives don’t need David Duke because their candidates are saying the same things,” Bridges said.

Duke would again have his time in the spotlight in 2017, as part of the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Violence would erupt, as one of the neo-Nazi participants rammed his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters, killing one and injuring dozens of others.

When in response, President Trump chose to equate the actions of the white nationalists and counter-protesters, Bridges said Duke had “one of the best days of his life.”

Duke continues to promote the similar politics he sees between himself and Trump on social media and on his own radio show. He is not a candidate in the upcoming midterm elections.

Bridges’ book is available in stores and can be purchased online for a price of $19.95 at https://www.octaviabooks.com/book/9781725501706.

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