PINEVILLE, LOUISIANA. — Pineville, Louisiana -- This community of 12,000 is in the heart of Louisiana, in the heart of David Duke country. I came here to look into the hearts of the people who vote for David Duke.
I ended up at a David Duke rally at the city park. I got there way before Mr. Duke did. So did most everybody else.
But I took one look and knew that I knew these folks. I knew them from Goldwater rallies in '64, from Wallace rallies in '68, from church, from family reunions.
If you didn't know any better, you wouldn't know that good people can vote for David Duke, ex-Klansman, ex-Nazi and current Republican candidate for governor of Louisiana. But my daddy voted for George Wallace for president, and my daddy was a good man. Hell, my whole county went for Wallace and it's a good place to live.
Good people have their own good reasons for their bad choices. Here are some of them, some of what I heard them explaining to one another, waiting for David Duke:
* ''Racist? Am I a racist? Would I have been teaching all those little black children all these years if I was a racist?'' (One fellow talking to another fellow.)
* ''Course not!'' (The other fellow.)
* ''They talk about me infringing on their rights. Well, what about my rights? Don't I have any rights?'' (Another conversation, another two men.)
* ''We used to! But not anymore!'' (The other half of that conversation.)
* ''Du!'' (Trey, who is almost 2, shoving his tiny fist within an inch of my nose. His grandmother had told him to tell me who was going to be Louisiana' next governor.)
* ''I haven't voted in a long time. I didn't think it'd do any good. But I'm voting this time.'' (A retired auto mechanic.)
* ''Well. Let's just barge in boldly.'' (A TV newsman to his black cameraman, preparing to interview some of the 500 of so people waiting for David Duke.)
* Not one word. (The black cameraman, the only black person among the 500 or so people waiting for David Duke.)
* ''There're going to be David Dukes popping up everywhere. He's got old Bush shaking in his boots.'' (A middle-aged woman, tall and stately.)
* ''I wouldn't vote for Bush again, ever!'' (A short, average-looking fellow she was talking to.)
* ''Me, neither.'' (A third man, nodding.)
* ''Dixie Darlings.'' (What it said on the back of the red-satin jackets worn by the little girls who were waiting to perform their state-champion twirling routine for David Duke.)
* ''He's gonna drive up in a big ol' limousine.'' (One of the Dixie Darlings, breathless with excitement.)
* ''I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy.'' (One of the songs, I swear, they were playing for the David Duke rally in the heart of Louisiana.)
* ''You don't have a sticker!'' (A pretty woman frowning an ugly frown at me. I tried to tell her the ''D'' on my Detroit Tigers ballcap stood for Duke.)
* ''You know what's wrong with our schools. You know where the crime problem lies. You know who's carrying the load. You know who's abusing the system.'' (Quote from David Duke campaign material.)
* ''Save Louisiana -- Put Up Your Dukes And Fight,'' ''More Dukes,'' ''Have You Hugged A Vietnam Veteran Today?'' and ''Why Buy Japanese? They Won't Buy Our Rice.'' (Bumper stickers on the vehicles in the parking lot, every kind of vehicle from Cadillacs to compacts, from four-wheel drive pickup trucks to four-door sedans.)
* ''You know, even my mama was confused about how to vote. But I talked to her and told her a few things. She said, 'Well, I guess I don't read as much as I used to.' '' (A middle-age man, trim and nicely dressed.)
* ''I think I've heard enough.'' (What I told myself, leaving the park while everybody else was still waiting for David Duke.)
Joe Murray is a senior writer for Cox Newspapers.