back on the Louisiana gubernatorialnelection of 1991 as a turning point innAmerican history. Democrats andnliberals have spent the last year whiningnthat Duke represents the logical culminationnof the conservative resurgencenof Ronald Reagan, and,conservatives,nfor the most part, have spent an equalnamount of time denying it. The Democratsnand liberals are, for once, deadnright, though as usual they miss thenpoint. Reagan conservatism, in its innermostnmeaning, had litde to do withnsupply-side economics and spreadingndemocracy. It had to do with thenawakening of a people who face political,ncultural, and economic dispossession,nwho are slowly beginning tonglimpse the fact of dispossession andnwhat dispossession will mean for themnand their descendants, and who alsonare starting to think about reversing thenprocesses and powers responsible forntheir dispossession. Ever since Mr.nReagan marched off to Washington inn1980 with the votes, money, and confidencenof the Americans who supportednhim, that meaning has been systematicallynthwarted, manipulated, andnsuppressed, not least by the very professionalnconservatives who havengained from it and purport to representnit. Mr. Duke and his voters are simplyntelling them that that meaning enduresnand that they intend to make certain itnsurvives, even if it takes an ex-Nazi tondo it.nThe mainstream of American conservatismnin the 1990’s has a lot ofnproblems with that message, and thenfirst fact such conservatives have tonrecognize is that Mr. Duke’s performancenmeans that mainstream conservatismnis politically defunct. > In thengubernatorial primary in October, Mr.nDuke defeated incumbent GovernornBuddy Roemer, a Democrat who hadnswitched to the Republicans last year.nMr. Roemer was supposed to be thenearly swallow that brings a GOPnspring, but nobody ever thought henwas a paradigmatic conservative. Thenother loser in the primary, however,nwas Representative Glyde Holloway,nwho was such a paradigm, and he wasnbooted so badly by all the other candidatesnthat many newspapers didn’tneven bother to report the few votes henreceived. Mr. Holloway, the favorite ofnmainstream conservative organs suchnas Human Events and National Re­n8/CHRONICLESnview, actually was the official Republicannnominee, and conservatives whonbegan to deplore Mr. Duke have onlyntheir own candidate to thank for Mr.nDuke’s success. Had it not been fornMr. Holloway’s candidacy, most of hisnvotes in the primary would probablynhave gone to Mr. Roemer, and Mr.nDuke would not have been eligible fornthe runoff.nLouisiana is not exactly Massachusetts,nand a “principled conservative,”nas movement conservatives like to callncandidates like Mr. Holloway, shouldnhave been expected to do better. Hendidn’t, even though there was nothingnat all wrong with him, and his dismalnshowing is an obituary for the kind ofnissues mainstream conservatives havenlong espoused. Nor is there anythingnwrong with those issues, which arencentered on small and limited governmentnand free market economic policies,nexcept that they belong to andifferent era and can no longer benexpected to win votes as they often didnin the 1970’s. Moreover, the handlingnof such issues by the Reagan administrationnand by President Bush has beennsuch as not to inspire confidencenamong voters supportive of them thatnother Republicans will handle themnany better.nMr. Duke, of course, bends hisnknees to such issues in his effort tonpresent himself as a conservative Republican,nbut everyone knows they arennot the reason for his appeal. Thenconservative issues not only belong to andifferent era of American politics butnalso reflect a different kind of society.nThey are essentially bourgeois issuesnand mirror the social and moral codesnof the small, independent businessman,nhis family, and his community.nOnce upon a time, such entrepreneursnwere the dominant core of Americannculture and politics, but they are so nonlonger, and with their demise, thenappeal of their ideology has withered.nThe second fact that American conservativesnhave to recognize about Mr.nDuke is that, through the issues bynwhich he did appeal to voters, he hasnsuccessfully redefined the ideologicalnpivots around which American politicsnrevolves. Those issues, of course, arenracial, though not in the sense that Mr.nDuke’s most vocal enemies claim.nMr. Duke did not win his statenlegislature seat or come close to win­nnnning a Senate seat in 1990 or approachnwinning the governorship last year byncatering to racial hatred, promising tonrestore segregation, or mounting esotericnarguments about IQ scores andnhow many Jews died at Auschwitz. Fornsome years prior to his national emergence,nhe had campaigned precisely onnsuch issues, and he lost disastrously.nFor the last couple of years, however,nMr. Duke has abandoned his racialistnand Nazi noises and espoused a platformnthat, while rather narrow, is formallynand explicitly unobjectionablenfrom a mainstream conservative pointnof view and is arguable even from anmoderate liberal perspective — he opposednquotas and affirmative action,nurged the need for welfare reform, andnobjected to the excesses of multiculturalismnand the kind of minority racismnthat upsets even such progressives asnArthur Schlesinger, Jr.nBut there was a subtext to what Mr.nDuke explicitly and formally said in hisnspeeches and his campaign literature,nand the subtext, communicated by thencontinued depiction of Mr. Duke innNazi uniform and Klan hood by hisnenemies, is that the historic core ofnAmerican civilization is under attack.nQuotas, affirmative action, racennorming, civil rights legislation, multiculturalismnin schools and universities,nwelfare, busing, and unrestricted immigrationnfrom Third World countriesnare all symbols of that attack and of thenracial, cultural, and political dispossessionnthey’ promise to inflict upon thenwhite post-bourgeois middle classes.nConventional conservative ideologynhas little to say about this kind ofnonslaught and littie to offer as a counterattack,nand no matter how muchnMr. Duke swore his allegiance to thatnideology, no one — including his ownnsupporters — really believed him.nIt is precisely because the image ofnMr. Duke that his enemies so assiduouslyncultivated was one that suggestednseriousness — even fanaticism — aboutnstopping the process of dispossessionnthat he was able to gain votes from thenentire range of Louisiana’s white middlenclass — not just the lower middlenclass that feels threatened by economicnas well as cultural trends but also fromnmembers of the upper middle class thatnare beginning to get the unsettlingnfeeling of peering into an abyss. Givennthat perception — and it underlies then