[Derek Black, right, and his dad Don Black, January 10, 2007, "Values Voters" Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.]
White supremacists have been trying to reinsert themselves back into the mainstream (where once upon a time they were common) for a long time now. One of the chief avenues for this effort has for years been the Republican Party in the South, particularly in places like Louisiana, where David Duke operates, and Mississippi, where the Council of Conservative Citizens has a friend in Gov. Haley Barbour. It's all part of the legacy of the Southern Strategy.
In Florida, Republicans are now being confronted with the legacy of the Southern Strategy in the person of Derek Black:
Derek Black says "of course" he will attend a meeting Wednesday for new members of Palm Beach County's Republican Executive Committee. Never mind that the party chairman says Black's "white supremacist" associations are not welcome and he will not be seated.
"I was elected," Black, 19, says.
Sporting a black hat, the son of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Don Black was seated last week in a restaurant off Southern Boulevard. Sitting next to him was one of his supporters: David Duke, former Louisiana state legislator and another former KKK grand wizard.
"We're going to fight," Duke said. "I know Derek Black is going to fight for his constitutional liberties. That's why I'm here, because I want to assist Derek."
Sorry, says county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein. In the qualifying period in June, Black didn't sign a loyalty oath pledging he would not do anything injurious to the party. And that's not the only problem.
"He participates in white supremacist activities," Dinerstein said. "We're the party of Lincoln. We're the party that says we don't judge anybody by the color of their skin."
There's a familial connection between David Duke and Derek Black: Derek's mother, Chloe Black, was previously married to Duke, and their son is Derek's half-brother. But there's also a strategic connection, in that Duke did the same thing himself in the 1980's and '90s in Louisiana, largely taking advantage of the Republicans' Southern Strategy.
In his book on the Southern Strategy, Joseph Aistrup describes this (cited here):
Using the basics of Reagan’s rhetoric, and mimicking the Reagan administration’s attack on civil rights, Bush vetoed the first version of the Civil Rights Act (1990) on the basis that it represented a “quota” bill. This strategy most likely would have succeeded, except for the emergence of Louisiana Republican and former Klansman, David Duke. David Duke's emergence as a Republican is an unintended consequence of the Southern Strategy’s race issue orientation (Page 1991, B7). Although Republican strategists are fully aware that the Southern Strategy entices voters of the same mold as David Duke (Evans and Novak 1991, A27), they find it extremely distasteful when a racial reactionary leader becomes a Republican candidate, wins a state legislative seat as a Republican, and is one of two finalists in the Louisiana U.S. Senate (1990) and governor (1991) contests. White House press spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said of Duke: “He’s not a Republican, he never will be a Republican ... We don’t like him.”
Aside from Duke’s overt racism, the Duke affair is distasteful to Republicans because candidates like Duke expose how the Southern Strategy’s conservative message can be racially interpreted by many Southern whites, lending credence to Democrats’ claims concerning the racially divisive nature of the Southern Strategy’s issues (McQueen and Birnbaum 1991, A18). However, the most disturbing aspect of David Duke for the Republicans and Bush was that he elicited rhetoric straight from the Bush campaign: Opposing “quotas,” affirmative action, and any type of minority preference; assailing those who are on welfare; and blaming government and special interests for the poor state of Louisiana’s economy.
Sure enough, as Jesse notes at Pandagon:
In true Republican fashion, rather than realize that there’s something fundamentally screwy and in need of fixing given a process in which a white supremacist not only feels comfortable running on your ticket, but wins, they’re instead seeking to throw him off the committee to which he was elected fair and square because of a technicality.
Republicans have made this bed. Now they get to sleep in it.