Edwin Edwards defeated David Duke by the lopsided margin of 61-39 percent. This should have made all liberals, moderates and true conservatives very happy. Yet many voices from among those groups are expressing concern about the Louisiana gubernatorial voting. They say the Duke vote indicates racism is strong and rising in Louisiana, in the South and probably even in the nation.
That is not true. Worry warts should savor the reality of a smashing victory. Sixty-one percent of the vote in any two-candidate race has always been and is still considered a huge landslide. It is a complete repudiation of the loser, when, as in this case, the voting turns in large part on a specific group of related issues. David Duke was clobbered.
For the victor to have been a man with Edwin Edwards' reputation makes the defeat even more striking. He makes Marvin Mandel look like a Goo-goo (good government type). Forty-two percent of those who voted for Mr. Edwards told exit pollsters that that they believed he was guilty of corruption when he was governor before. An untainted candidate opposing David Duke probably would have gotten even more than 61 percent of the vote.
Those who read the worst in the Louisiana voting of Nov. 16 should consider two other votes on different dates. On Oct. 30 the U.S. Senate voted on S. 1745, the 1991 Civil Rights Act. It passed it 93-5. Southern Democratic senators voted for it 16-0. On Nov. 7 -- with national attention focused on the legislation and the civil rights issues that David Duke was running against (including specifically the bill) -- the House of Representatives voted for S. 1745 by 381-38. Southern Democratic representatives voted 74-1 in favor.
Some might say that since blacks in the South are almost all Democrats, these margins don't mean that much, that Democrats have to be pro-civil rights to get nominated. But Democratic senators and representative have to run in general elections, too. If there were a strong David Duke-style public opinion down South, you would not be seeing such voting line-ups in Congress. Furthermore, Southern Republicans voted for the bill, too. In the House their vote was 24-14 for -- this from the most extremely conservative group of representatives in Washington. The leader of the conservative bloc in the House, Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, voted for S. 1745. In the Senate, Southern Republicans, led by Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, voted 5-1 for the bill.
The vote against David Duke was a great victory for decent Americans. It reflected an American and a Southern commitment to equality and fairness that was also made unmistakably clear by the voting on the civil rights bill.