Last week, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal became the first non-white governor of Louisiana since Reconstruction -- and the first Indian-American governor in U.S. history. The Republican congressman will succeed Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco after winning 54 percent of the vote in last Saturday's jungle primary. He'll take office in January.
The last non-white to serve as governor of Louisiana was P.B.S. Pinchback, a former Union soldier and Republican who held the office from Dec. 9, 1872 to Jan. 13, 1873 after impeachment charges were brought against his predecessor and party mate, Henry Clay Warmoth. The first non-white governor of any U.S. state following Pinchback's brief time in office was L. Douglas Wilder, who was elected governor of Virginia in 1989.
Jindal's victory shows how far we've come as a nation since 1923, when in United States vs. Thind the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indians were non-whites and thus ineligible for citizenship. Back in Jindal's ancestral village of Khanpura, his victory was reportedly celebrated with sweets and bhangra dancing.
But when it comes to matters of race, perhaps Louisiana politics haven't come quite as far as Jindal's election seems to suggest.
Just four months before Jindal's victory, Keith Rush was elected to the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee, the governing body of the state GOP. A right-wing radio talk show host, Rush has close ties to former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke, who lost his 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial bid. As the Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported:
When Duke ran for governor in 1991 (winning, shockingly, nearly 700,000 votes), he backed Rush's candidacy for the Jefferson Parish Council, telling his supporters that Rush "thinks like we do." In one of Rush's own campaign fliers, entitled "Who Is This Racist?" Rush answered his own question: "This racist believes that 'real' racism thrives on affirmative action programs." Rush also was a featured guest speaker at "Duke Fest," held July 4, 1991, in New Orleans.
SPLC points out that the story of Rush's Duke ties was originally reported by the blog Your Right Hand Thief after a tip from the person behind the now-defunct blog, The Flaming Liberal. As YRHT wrote:
Can we really celebrate progress when former David Duke supporters like Keith Rush are elected to the governing arm of the state Republican party?
Call me liberal, but I don't think so.