The 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial election was, um, unconventional—and it may provide a preview of the 2024 presidential race.
Democrat Edwin Edwards—who had served as governor three times, but was widely believed to be (and later proved to be) corrupt—was on the ballot against David Duke, the Republican candidate and a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. That appalling choice—Scam Man vs. Klan Man—inspired one voter to create a bumper sticker proclaiming, “Vote for the crook: It’s important.”
We might see some version of that slogan as we approach the 2024 presidential election—though at this point it’s not clear which of the two leading contenders, President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump, would be the crook. Could be either, or neither, or both, depending on current or potential legal charges and investigations.
Louisiana voter Kirby Newburger woke up one morning in October, 1991, disgusted with his two gubernatorial choices. Newly minted Republican David Duke had run unsuccessfully as a Democrat for several elections in the 1970s and ’80s. He then claimed to have had a religious conversion and switched to the Republican Party in 1988, winning a seat in the state legislature and then running for governor in 1991.
After starting his third term as governor, Edwards was indicted in 1985 on charges of mail fraud, obstruction of justice and bribery. The first trial ended in a mistrial and the second one ended in an acquittal. But most Louisiana voters had their doubts—and they were right. Edwards was indicted in 1998 and found guilty on 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, money laundering and more. He was released from federal prison in 2011.
Today, most voters are unhappy with their two most likely presidential options—though there is still time for one or both of those candidates to drop out. But if voters were to “vote for the crook” because the other option is so repugnant, who would get that vote?
Trump might end up being considered a crook. He’s under four criminal indictments, including racketeering charges. And, of course, several of his closest associates have already gone to jail.
For example, Allen Weisselberg was the long-time CFO of Trump’s real estate company. He pled guilty and served three months in jail for tax fraud. Michael Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer.” He pled guilty in 2018 and was sentenced to three years for making illegal hush-money payments to two women who claimed to have had sexual relations with Trump. Then there’s Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, who was convicted of fraud and money laundering and was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, though Trump pardoned him in 2020. And that’s not the whole list.
Joe Biden hasn’t been charged with any criminal activity, but that may change if more and more damning evidence emerges from Hunter Biden’s various shady business deals.
The latest revelation, coming from the New York Times and Politico, is that newly appointed Special Counsel David Weiss was apparently willing to let Hunter Biden off the hook for tax fraud and illegal gun possession. But two IRS whistleblowers’ allegations and testimony forced Weiss to backtrack. Thanks to a careful judge overseeing the agreement, the Hunter plea deal fell apart. Now he likely faces more serious charges—and consequences.
In addition, House investigators are now looking into personal emails where Joe Biden apparently used pseudonyms, including Robert Peters, Robin Ware and JRB Ware (his middle name is Robinette and he’s from Delaware). Could some of those emails shed more light on any business arrangements or financial transfers—money laundering, racketeering, illegal dealings with foreign people or governments—between Hunter and the “big guy”?
While it’s unlikely, we can’t rule out the possibility that one or both of the current leading presidential candidates could, in the next year or two, be convicted of one or more crimes.
That possibility means voters may wake up next summer or fall and see a new bumper sticker: “Vote for the lesser of the two crooks: It’s important.”