LET'S ADD A QUALIFICATION TO DAVE WEIGEL'S QUALIFICATION
Eve Conant has a story at the Daily Beast right now about a growing number of white supremacist candidates running for office across America; her capper is a report that David Duke is thinking of making another presidential bid.
I don't know if what she's telling us is accurate. (On the subject of Duke, he hasn't posted a response at his Web site -- but, hey, nice beard, Dave!)
However, Dave Weigel is flat-out certain that the story is overblown. In reference to the latest racist candidates, Weigel writes:
Most aren't winning -- not yet.
... According to the research, only one did last year -- Loy Mauch, a batty neoconfederate in Arkansas....
Mauch's opponent in the race was Terry Bracy.... When told that Mauch was a member of a group that believes in Southern secession and is a strident defender of the Confederate flag, Bracy said that he didn't have that information during the campaign....
More information about racist (or, fine, neoconfederate) candidates leads to the candidates not winning. That's certainly the conclusion to draw from the fact that the rest of these idiots aren't winning. When David Duke ran as the Populist Party's candidate in 1988, near the peak of his fame (he's the definition of a has-been now), he scored 47,004 votes. Nationally.
Yes ... but three years later Duke ran for governor of Louisiana and received 671,009 votes in the general election, after receiving 491,342 in a multi-candidate open primary. So what happened in those three years? Did Louisianans somehow become less informed about Duke's racism? Did the free flow of information somehow go in reverse between 1988 and 1991?
You might recall that 1991 was the worst year for crime, and violent crime, in recent decades. The national discussion of crime at that time was nakedly racial. Under those circumstances, information wasn't enough to keep Duke out of a gubernatorial runoff.
This year and next aren't like 1991, but these are very bad years in different ways. I don't know if white supremacists are going to do well at the polls, but the potential for someone fringey to do a hell of a lot better in 2012 than would be expected in a normal year is very much there. Hell, it's happening already in the GOP presidential polls. It happened in the 2010 midterms. The only question is what kinds of nuts will thrive. Information can't trump voter desperation.