On an early Friday morning in the fall of 1991 I was in my hotel room in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Fridays are like Sunday in the Middle East and I had awakened following the winning of the Mid-East Championship at the Dubai Softball Complex at the International Hotel.  The world was changing at an alarming pace.  The Soviet Union and the communist party had fallen apart and dissolved almost overnight.  Images of the Berlin wall being torn down by citizens of Berlin are etched in the minds of freedom loving humans throughout the world. A world coalition had come to the aid of tiny Kuwait and six months earlier had thrown out the Iraq forces in a surgical military operation that will be studied in military academies around the world for generations to come.  The world could finally see a short glimmer of what world peace could really look like.  A world was changing and Dubai was beginning to realize what could be done within the borders of this desert sheikdom. As much as I love and cherish my home state, Louisiana was seen as an insignificant state in America that was twelve thousand miles from Dubai.  In a world view, it pales in comparison to the likes of New York, California and Florida and I hope it remains that way. Yet, on this one day in November, as I awoke to the local radio station broadcasting in English the number one news story flashing across the air waves was that Edwin Edwards had defeated former KKK leader David Duke for the governorship of the state of Louisiana.  This is not the first time that the Ku Klux Klan had taken a prominent position in state or national politics.  Apparently after recent comments pertaining to Duke and the Republican race for president and the endorsement given to Donald Trump, the Klan still has some influence in the political debate.

In 1924 the KKK had strong bonds with the Democratic Party.  Tammany Hall, a political power house for the Democratic Party was headquartered in New York.  Political leaders such as Al Smith, Jim Farley and Franklin Roosevelt came from Tammany Hall politics.  Tammany Hall was anti-Klan and wanted the Klan to be written out of the party in the 1924 Democratic convention.  The Democratic South had a loyal following from the Klan and the Democratic delegation to the convention was estimated to be composed of over 25% members of the Klan.

William Jennings Bryant had at one time been the youngest nominated candidate for president.  He was from Nebraska and at an old age when the 24 convention was held was not a supporter of the KKK.   Bryant was a huge supporter of the Democratic Party and he knew that if the proposal to write out the Klan from the party was brought to the floor of the convention it would tear the party apart.  He came forward to speak and try to persuade the delegation to not bring the Klan issue to the floor of the convention.  For 30 minutes the Tammany Hall delegation jeered him so badly that he unable to address the convention.  The proposal to write the KKK out of the Democratic Party did eventually come to a vote, was barely defeated and the damage was done.  The press of the day built on convention and referred to the gathering as the “Klan Bake”.  It ultimately took two weeks and over a hundred different votes to select a candidate to run for president.

The Republicans won the election in 1924.  Jennings went on be on the prosecution team at the Scopes Monkey trial in Tennessee and eventually the Klan lost control in the Democratic party and its’ strength grew in the Republican party.  When Duke was defeated for the governorship of Louisiana he was running as the Republican representative.

While the Klan has lost most of the power it once had, the mere mention of the KKK can have a strong effect on a political race for both the candidate and the political party.


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