"In part because that is the way people wanted it. It's in part because those who became political leaders, through accident and chance, believed that. It's in part because of the strength of a few men who have been governor in the past, like Earl and Huey. It is in part because the advantage of Byzantine Mediterranean politics is divide and conquer.
"I like our Mediterranean flavor, by the way. There's an emphasis on individualism here. I like that. There's an emphasis that is Mediterranean about being creative. I like that. There's a Mediterranean--and I'm thinking Greek and Lebanese and Egyptian and Italian--kind of forgiveness. People forgive you here.
"Wow! What a powerful thing that is."
IT'S 9 A.M. ON SUNDAY, THE APPOINTED HOUR.
David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is naked but for some shorts--turquoise with orange trim. They go halfway to his knees. He is standing in the doorway of his house, which also is his legislative office, which also is his campaign office. His hair is tousled. His eyes look bleary.
I apologize for waking him.
"That's all right," he replies. He holds the door open with one hand and rubs his face with the other. "I wasn't asleep--I just haven't showered yet." He pauses to squint, cockeyed, at the sunlight. He gives me half a smile. We were scheduled to drive deep into southern Louisiana to campaign at a blessing of the fishing fleet at Delacroix on Bayou Terre aux Boeufs. But the New Orleans paper says Gov. Roemer has "stunned the Legislature by torpedoing a redistricting compromise he had agreed to" a day before.
"I don't know if I'm going to go to the fleet blessing," David Duke says. "The Legislature is going to be in session today." He pauses to think. "Whatever I do, I won't be leaving until 10 or so." He pauses again, trying to sort things out. "Come back in 45 minutes."
I drive around. This is a blue-collar, white-flight suburb, part of Metairie, near New Orleans. Houses have a hard-scrabble look. David Duke's is a two-story, dirty-white clapboard place with black shutters. It needs paint. He has window boxes, but all the plants are dead. I turn right and drive past a squat building called the Tavern. It has a Busch sign in a window. Another sign pronounces a solemn vow: "Open 24 Hours, Seven Days a Week." By now it is 9:10 a.m. on Sunday; and, indeed, the front door to the Tavern is open. A Harley-Davidson, blue and aging, stands outside. Another is parked nearby. It is black and muddy.
At 10 a.m., I return to David Duke's place. The Legislature, he says, will convene at 2 p.m.--but he will go to Delacroix anyway, because he can make it back in time. We climb into a white Ford van.
David Duke is 6-feet-3. He is lean and muscular. His eyes are blue, and they fade to green in the sunlight. He has a light complexion and wavy, dark blond hair. It is still tousled. It seems to be styled that way, in a kind of professional tousle. When some of it tumbles toward his eyes, he brushes it away with self-conscious vanity. He has but one apparent physical flaw--big ears. He is wearing faded blue jeans, white Reeboks and a white polo shirt. He puts on a pair of sun glasses--and lotion to protect his skin.
He gives new meaning to a wink and a nod. To David Duke, they do not necessarily signal the affirmation of a political deal. To him they are a way of communicating with his supporters without embarrassing them in public.
Some are open about it. "I want to shake your hand," they say. Or "I hope you win." Or "I'd know your face anywhere; and you've got my vote, man. You've got it."
Others, however, move their heads up and down ever so slightly and smile. Sometimes they glance to see if anybody is watching. When he notices this, Duke nods back and gives them a thumbs up--not out at arm's length, but down alongside his trousers, where it is not so likely to be seen.
"We're gonna do it," he tells them, quietly.
Sometimes one or two will reply, just as quietly: "Expect to see you in there."
He calls this his "hidden vote." These are the voters, David Duke figures, who will make him governor. When poll-takers ask these voters how they intend to cast their ballots, they lie. And that is why David Duke declares confidently: "I'm in the lead." He proudly recalls that he won 60% of the white vote when he ran against Bennett Johnston last year. And he says he has done his math in this race for the governorship. He pauses, smiles. "Sixty-six percent of the white vote wins."
Against that chance, a group called the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism has mounted a pitched battle in opposition to David Duke. The coalition--a group headed by ministers and academics--has dug deeply into his background. It has augmented its research with information from several Louisiana newspapers. And its profile of Duke has met with no credible challenge.
According to the coalition: