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Duke fixation sends parties, candidates off message

One ignorant peon needlessly has managed to interject a lot of anxiety into Louisiana’s U.S. Senate contest, because those involved with it inflate his importance.

The candidate in question, Republican former state Rep. David Duke, got the executive directors of both of the state’s major political parties all bothered when the former Ku Klux Klan official polled just enough for inclusion in next week’s televised debate. Both the GOP’s Jason Doré and Democrat Stephen Handwerk wrung their hands over his earning a place at the dais. “[H]e absolutely should not be given any extra time from anyone,” complained Handwerk, and Doré moaned that “if I were a decision maker … I certainly wouldn’t have him as part of the debate.”

That a Democrat official should wish to censor debate should not surprise. Increasingly over the decades the political left has advocated limits on free speech, most recently most visibly in Louisiana by arguments that public facilities should not host speakers that could offend somebody’s sensibilities and nationally where the Democrat nominee for president Hillary Clinton argues that certain voices need limitation when making arguments about ideas and candidates.

But for a Republican to do so shocks. Conservatives typically argue for as robust speech as possible, not only because this builds a more solid foundation for a republic but also because, with fact and logic on its side, conservativism always wins when compared to what liberalism has to offer. That explains why liberals desire to restrict speech, as they must battle against inconvenient truths in order to persuade successfully.

That customary position of robustness exactly should apply in this situation if Duke makes any remarks that draw upon racist sentiments. Even if his opponents on the stage don’t have the time, opportunity, or wit to uncover the stupidity of his assumptions, selectiveness of his data, and lack of critical thinking employed, anybody in the audience with a modicum of critical thinking ability will see through his assertions. Let him make a fool of himself.

The same applies to a collateral matter involving Duke between his main Democrat opponents Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and lawyer Caroline Fayard. Campbell already previously evinced offense over a remark made by a GOP opponent Treasurer John Kennedy over the Republican’s jocular commentary he would rather take poison than support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at a forum attended by Campbell. At the time, Campbell said nothing about it, but over two months later at the last televised forum he expressed delayed indignation, prompting another candidate to say Kennedy should apologize for it and afterwards claiming the remark insensitive towards those individuals with mental health issues and their families.

Now he has gotten up in arms about a campaign advertisement by Fayard, who used a selectively edited voice clip of Campbell saying “I may be like Mr. Duke” entirely out of context to then comment that “Campbell even sided with Mr. Duke.” The ad goes on to declare Campbell, like Duke, a part of the past, a central theme of the Fayard campaign that as she has never held political office and as each of the major candidates has a good two decades in age on her, she represents the “future.”

Fayard of course has a history of a rather immature approach to campaigning. Five years ago in her only other contest, a special election for lieutenant governor, she proclaimed hatred of Republicans and alleged they practiced cannibalism. As she trails Campbell in the latest polling, this ad seems as desperate – as did Campbell’s remarks about the offhand description by Kennedy, who Campbell trails in polls – as her previous admission seems asinine.

Fayard’s strategy here appears to desire shaking loose Campbell’s black support, with this voting bloc having gone more his way that hers despite endorsements from prominent individuals and organizations that typically have widespread black support. But a number of local black political organizations and officials also have endorsed Campbell, meaning the Fayard attempt to detach will have little impact. She would do much better to emphasize Campbell’s reluctance to support Clinton, a popular nominee for blacks.

Campbell would do better to ignore the whole thing and let Fayard look small while taking opportunities to contrast himself with Duke during the debate, using that footage in future ads. By fulminating, it only adds to an impression of volatility that does not contrast well with his Republican opponents.

As for Duke, on issues of race he will make himself look stupid and thus will attract few votes. Obsessing about him only distracts candidates and parties from delivering their preferred messages.

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