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Breaking with Tradition: Women, Management, and the New Facts of Life.

Boy in the hood

Of course, Duke demise does not mean the end of the politics of race in this or any other year. Middle-class children of the Reagan years experienced overt racial tensions long before the Rodney King incident. In my youth, during the summer of 1980, a jury in Chattanooga acquitted three Klansmen in a drive-by shooting of five black women. Some of the city's black population rioted, burning buildings and threatening to spread the violence. From my house on Missionary Ridge, the Civil War battlefield that overlooks the city, I could hear gunfire and see smoke rising from the business districts. there were two reactions at home. First, my father put a shotgun by the back door and a rifle by the front; there were fears that hings could get out of hand. But there was also his astonishment at the verdict, a recongnition of the general pity of it all, and a lecture on the explicable rage of the people who thought the system had, once again, abandoned them. Still, the guns remained by the doors for a time.

As I grew older, it struck me that the ambiguity of those days was not uncomon. The story of the post-1954 South--and, for that matter, of the rest of the nation--is that of men and women of good intentions doing battle with their fears and habits. Fortunately, the good intentions have generally won out, an the kind of viciousness Duke represents has retreated from the center to the fringe. The guns at the door are not necessarily emblems of the Right: My father voted for Carter in 1980, thinking Reagan too conservative. It would never occur to him to vote for Duke, and, clearly, the mass of middle-class voters feel the same way.

Rose and Esolen acknowledge this in their joint analysis of Duke's gubernatorial race: "The support of conservative Republicans was crucial to Duke byt hard for him to get. They were not casting protest votes or experiencing hard times or threatened by affirmative action or fond of Hitler or theKKK. Republican support for culturally racist themes lacks the intensity that Duke supporters bring." The Duke phenomenon came to an end because he couldn't extend his support beyond a small band of angry and alienated blue-collar voters.

Duke is an interesting study, a stoppin-off point for political and social scientists who make a living generalizing from the particular. The center has a way of holding, however, and Duke has slouched home to the fringe. This book, for all its overstatement, tells the David Duke story well., Let's hope ;it will be the last word we'll need on the subject.

Jon Meacham is a reporter faor the Chattanooga Times.

*The emergence of David Duke and the Politics of Race. Douglas D. Rose, editor. University of North Carolina Press. $29.95 (cloth) $12.95 (paper).
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Author:Rose, Julie
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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