On Wednesday night, Louisiana held its Republican primary debate for Senate, an event which would normally not merit national attention if not for the fact that one of America’s most famous neo-Nazis participated in it. Inspired by Donald Trump’s electoral success, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and ardent Trump backer David Duke threw his hat into the ring and received the 5 percent polling support necessary to make the debate stage.
What happened next was entirely predictable.
Asked by the moderator why he insisted on singling out and attacking Jewish journalists who reported stories critical of Trump, Duke did not disappoint. “There is a problem in America with a very strong, powerful tribal group that dominates our media and dominates our international banking,” he declared. (Duke had previously claimed that a Jewish conspiracy secretly inserted the plagiarized portions of Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech that cribbed from Michelle Obama.)
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) October 2, 2016
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) October 9, 2016
“I’m not opposed to all Jews,” Duke insisted. “I’m against Jews or anybody else that puts the interest of some of other place, another country, over our own country, that is controlling and dominating the media which is teaching black people and inspiring black people to hate white people and inciting them to violence, like the Black Lives Matter.” (Ironically, a man wearing a Black Lives Matter pin at a Bernie Sanders event in Brooklyn infamously harangued Sanders along very similar anti-Semitic lines, demonstrating the conspiratorial overlap on the far-right and far-left when it comes to Jews.)
Duke did not address why the Jewish media conspiracy had allowed his debate to be broadcast live on C-SPAN. Pressed on his claims by the moderator, he began darkly fulminating about the “neocons,” whom he dubbed “a cabal in this government that literally controls our foreign policy.” Then, rather than explaining how neocons had infiltrated the liberal administration of Barack Obama, Duke instead segued into arguing that Hillary Clinton “should be getting the electric chair.”
Duke’s performance is a reminder of how Trump’s candidacy—and his refusal to denounce his most bigoted supporters with anything but the most perfunctory brush-offs—has reinvigorated the country’s white supremacists, who now believe they have the electoral winds at their back. It would be the easiest electoral win in American history for Trump to publicly give a statement denouncing David Duke and his neo-Nazi ilk in true Trumpian fashion. That he refuses to do so, and in fact has harsher words for fellow Republican politicians like Paul Ryan, is both revealing and deeply troubling.
Finally, that America’s most prominent white supremacist spent much of his time in the national spotlight attacking Jews should dispel any doubts that American Jews can be blithely conflated with whites. As I’ve written previously:
While many so-called anti-racists on the left dismiss Jews as white and privileged, the racists never did get the memo. To Duke and his ilk, Jews are foreign contaminants in the white gene pool as much as blacks or Mexicans. This means that when anti-racists insist that Jews are white and aren’t as in need of protection as other minorities, they are really just compounding the abuse heaped upon those Jews.
To be truly committed to the cause of anti-racism, one must speak up for all those targeted by racists. Otherwise, one is not fighting racism so much as offering a scapegoat to mollify the racists.