Fascism With a Facelift

There's good news and bad news in the results of the Louisiana gubernatorial run-off on November 16. The good news, of course, is that the voters of the state soundly rejected the Republican ex-Nazi and Klan leader David Duke as a candidate for governor. The political hurricane warning has passed, and a sort of quasi-sanity can return.

The bad news is equally obvious. David Duke did carry a majority of the white vote in Louisiana. He did gain the national media platform he so desperately sought. And, like one of those slasher-movie villains, Duke will no doubt return, perhaps in the upcoming Republican presidential primaries.

The very fact that a totalitarian extremist such as Duke has come this far is certainly cause for alarm. But even more, it should be the cause for hard thinking about what this bizarre phenomenon can teach us about the increasingly strange, and strained, state of our nation.

First of all, let's make one thing perfectly clear. David Duke is not just a former Nazi. He may have severed his organizational ties to the Far Right and dropped most of his blatantly obvious racist and anti-Semitic terminology. But he is still a fascist, in the full historical and ideological sense of that term. He espouses a philosophy that prizes order and racial identity over freedom and cultural tolerance, and he seeks the power of the state to enforce those prejudices by any means necessary.

In the late 1980s, as he contemplated electoral office, Duke went to a plastic surgeon and had his face Aryanized with a nose and chin job. He has tried to do the same with his ideology. But he is still just a fascist with a facelift.

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Sojourners Magazine January 1992
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