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Mitch Landrieu: Conservatives Are Using ‘Coded Language’ — ‘Fairly Similar’ to David Duke

Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the rise of President Donald Trump was a “dark moment in the country.”

According to Landrieu, conservatives were “speaking in coded language” to judge people based on race, creed, color, sexual orientation and not on their behavior.

Partial transcript as follows:

STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s Hillary Clinton back in the news this week with that analysis of her loss taking some heat from fellow Dems for that. We’re joined now by one of the Democrats eyeing the nomination in 2020, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, out with his book In the Shadow of Statues: a White Southerner Confronts History. Mayor, thanks for joining us this morning. I want to get to the book in a second. But let’s start out with that analysis right there. A lot of Democrats who are looking ahead to 2020 say we just should not be talking about the middle of the country like that.

MITCH LANDRIEU, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Well, it’s important that everybody in the country feel included. In this moment that we have, a dark moment in the country, it’s obvious that a lot of people feel alienated. White people in rural America feel alienated, African-Americans in urban areas feel alienated, people just feel distended from each other. And I think the bigger point is how to find common ground. And that’s true whether you’re sitting in the White House or whether you’re sitting in the statehouse, whether you’re the mayor, whether you’re the head of a community organization, I think you feel that angst in the country right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You speak to an underlying angst in the country that is so true, so out there. And it seems like our elections are going in exactly the opposite direction, simply mobilizing the most partisan voices on either side.

LANDRIEU: Well, I don’t want to make you older than you are, but you remember back as far as all the way back to President Nixon all the way to today and the world has somewhat changed. In the south, we have what are called blue dog Democrats, which are basically very moderate individuals. And you can see right now that only the extremes are getting elected in the country and there’s a big fight going on in both parties, quite frankly, about the left, the middle and right of their parties.

And so I think a lot of us who are just interested in getting things done on whatever level you are, interesting in trying to find common ground and making things happen , which why being the mayor of the great city of New Orleans for the last year has been so incredible, because we’re not ideologically bent. We find a way. We make one.

Most of the things that people are talking about in Washington and folks on the street when they’re at the grocery store, at the ball park with their kids are really not talking about and they can’t really kind of figure out why something constructive can’t happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that doesn’t mean backing away from tough issues and this gets into the subject of your book, In the Shadow of Statues. Of course, you brought down those Confederate statues in New Orleans.

And in the book, you write something provocative. You say when I look back today, David Duke’s demagoguery stands like a dress rehearsal for the rise of Donald Trump. While he may not have worn a hood or a swastika, Trump’s rhetoric and actions during his 2016 presidential campaign were shockingly similar to the tactics deployed by Duke in 1989.

We are seeing such fire around the issue of race.

LANDRIEU: Well, a couple of things. First of all you said, you know, you don’t run away from the issues. Actually, what you have to do is run to the tough issues in order to find common ground. You don’t find common ground by running away from them and not confronting the difficulties that you have. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the problems that people have in the country with politics today is we actually run away from the tough issues.

You have to trust in the people that you work with enough to know that if you can call the question on things that are hard for us that we can actually figure out — as a matter of fact, I know we all say the country is so divided. They are when you talk about Washington, but really on the streets of America every day African-Americans, white, Hispanic people, rural and urban, are working together, living together, praying together every day.

So we can figure out a way to get from where we are right now to where we need to be now.

I think it is — it would be less than genuine to say that we’re not having if a moment where we’re allowing the darker angels among us to control what it is…

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you talk about President Trump is playing it?

LANDRIEU: Well, I can say this, I made an observation, not an accusation, that what happened in Louisiana when David Duke was there is fairly similar to what we’re seeing there where people are speaking in coded language. They are beginning to judge people based on race, creed, color, sexual orientation and not on their behavior. And, of course, you see that pattern.

The thing that is so alarmed me about some of the incidents surrounding the taking down of the statues was somehow this false equivocation between white supremacy and not. And there are bounds in which we can argue from all the way to conservative or liberal, one thing that we cannot countenance in this country is the rise of white supremacy. It needs to be called out, it needs to be focused on. Slavery was our original sin. The civil war was fought about that. And we have to be really clear that whether you’re on the left, the middle, or the right there is a place that we will not go. And I just don’t want to go back there.

I saw that in Louisiana when David Duke got two out of every three white votes. Some of the language is being used, it’s coded. You have to call it out, focus on it, and then get us back to the normal fights that we have in democracy about whatever theory of governing you may have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s what I want to get to. I know you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. We’re still a couple of years out, but not too early to plan. When you think of the prospect of maybe running for president what is the big problem you, as a Democrat, think needs to be fixed?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all I’m not thinking about that, other people have talked about that. And I mean, honestly it’s very flattering to think about it, but I don’t see that happening as it relates to me. And I would say this to the people of America. We shouldn’t just wait on whoever the president is is to fix our problem. The 320 million Americans did something really kind every day, and just kind of pushed back on all the nastiness, we could move the country fairly quickly in a whole lot of different ways. And there’s tons of stuff going on in the local areas.

But it is clear to me that we have to get back to being respectful, being civil, to seeing each other and judging each other based on our behavior, not race, not creed, not class, not sexual orientation, not necessarily what country you come from. And we’re being too loose with that right now. We have to be more disciplined in our focus on civility, because this is the greatest country that ever was. And it will be the greatest country coming, and we have what it is to make sure that everybody is fine, but you have to purposely fry to find common ground. It’s a mission we all have to accept.

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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