In 1991, hideously corrupt former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards tried to stage a comeback. Four years earlier, he was voted out of office, charged with racketeering, and most of his inner circle went to prison. He was so incredibly unpopular that it was said that he could run against Hitler himself and still lose. Of course, that was a hypothetical -- Hitler wasn't even a legal resident of Louisiana. Instead, Edwards was running against this guy:
That's not a bath robe.
That's David Duke, former KKK Grand Wizard and member of the American Nazi Party. Of course he's a Holocaust denier, which kind of comes with the territory, but he also sold copies of Mein Kampf out of his state legislature office and was involved in a bizarre episode nicknamed the "Bayou of Pigs" incident, in which he plotted to have white supremacist mercenaries invade a Caribbean island.
By all rights, neither Duke nor Edwards should ever have even wound up on the ballot, but due to Louisiana's messed-up primary process and an unfortunate mess of vote-splitting between more reasonable candidates, voters were faced with the most conflicting "lesser-evil" ballot in democratic history. Of course, most people swallowed their pride and pledged to vote for the corrupt politician over the literal leader of the Klan. Average citizens even got into the spirit of the democratic process by making bumper stickers like "Vote for the lizard, not the wizard" and "Vote for the crook. It's important."
This sticker wouldn't work in most elections. It would be too ambiguous.
But that's when Edwards decided to enact maybe the worst strategy possible in this situation: pride. Rather than feigning penance for his corrupt past, he wore it on his sleeve, and even joked about it. He put the "Vote for the crook" bumper sticker on his own car, openly bragged about his extramarital affairs while on the campaign trail, and responded to questions with answers like, "The only thing we have in common is we're both wizards under the sheets."
In the meantime, Duke was beginning to realize that, holy shit, he might actually have a shot at this. So while Edwards was openly insulting his electorate and bragging about how untouchable he was, Duke replaced his white robes with a respectable suit and started kissing babies and shaking hands. By momentarily shelving his "kill all the black people" talking points and discussing normal politics like the economy or "totally not killing all the black people," Duke started to get the voters on his side. Granted, only the white ones.
Philip Gould/Corbis via Getty Images
"Just the TRUE Americans."
The good news (we guess?) is that Edwards still won, 60 percent to 40 percent. But it came down to a terrifyingly close race between a skeevy politician and the leader of the KKK. Louisiana (barely) made the right choice, and we all learned a valuable lesson. If only there were some parallels to draw between this and our current political scenario ...
For insane moments in the history of politics, check out The 6 Most Childish Things Ever Done In Congress and The 6 Most Insane People To Ever Run For President.
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