There’s a Nazi running for office in Illinois

Unbelievably, the title of this article is not clickbait, nor is it an exaggeration. Arthur Jones, called by his very own Republican Party a Nazi, is running for Illinois’ third district seat in the House of Representatives.

This was not the planned column for this week. I spent most of my time researching the allegations of domestic abuse against White House staffer Rob Porter, and planned to write a column on the allegations themselves, in relation to President Trump’s completely unsurprising response. (For those who missed it, Trump brushed them off, pointing out that Porter has insisted on his innocence.)

But when skimming through The Economist I noticed an article entitled ‘A holocaust denier is a Republican congressional candidate in Illinois.’ This is how I stumbled upon the story of Arthur Jones. Jones, unlike Roy Moore, who I wrote about for The Columnists last year, has won the Republican nomination for the seat not by beating any incumbents (the seat is currently held by Democrat Dan Lipinski,) or, by beating any Republicans at all, actually. Jones was the only man to submit his papers for nomination in time for the deadline, making him the candidate by default.

The controversy surrounding Arthur Jones is entirely of his own doing. He denies the Holocaust, calling it an ‘international extortion racket,’ celebrates Hitler’s birthday, has marched in full Nazi regalia, has been a member of the American Nazi Party, and has said in an interview that white people are more intelligent than black people. But Jones doesn’t identify as a Nazi anymore, Elaine Godfrey reported in The Atlantic, instead preferring the term “white racialist,” as if that makes the slightest bit of difference.

He has also stated that he ‘will work with the Klan, with socialists—I exclude communists of course—any patriotic organization that is in general agreement with my beliefs and principles,’ in what must be the most hilariously damning indictment of Trump’s America yet. He will work with the KKK, but someone who wants to distribute wealth more evenly? That’s just too far.

Unsurprisingly, the Republican Party in Illinois has worked to distance itself from Jones. In a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times, Tim Schneider, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said ‘The Illinois Republican Party and our country have no place for Nazis like Arthur Jones. We strongly oppose his racist views and his candidacy for any public office, including the 3rd Congressional District.’ The obvious problem with that statement, as condemning as it is, is that none of the Illinois Republicans actually did run to oppose Arthur Jones, and so even though they oppose Jones’ candidacy with their words, none of them got out and put a moderate Republican body in the mix, and to try to actually stop Jones becoming their candidate.

The reason no even vaguely sane Republicans were interested in running for the seat becomes clear when considering the seat itself. Illinois’ third district is safely Democratic, it has been represented by Dan Lipinski since 2005, and his father Bill Lipinski before him. No Republican has held the seat since 1975. In 2016, despite the Republicans barring Jones from standing, they fielded no other candidate, so Lipinski stood unopposed.

When asked to explain why no Republicans had stood in 2016, and then again this year, Aaron DeGroot, the party’s state spokesman, said to Elaine Godfrey: “There was just no other candidate who was willing to run.” According to Godfrey, DeGroot cited gerrymandering by the Democrats as a reason no Republicans would challenge Lipinski. But as Godfrey points out, the part of Illinois that the third district sits in is Democratic across the map, it would be difficult to cut it in a way that would make a Republican win significantly more likely.

So Jones is highly unlikely to win, which is a positive. But his candidacy itself is the problem. It has the same sense of self righteousness that Roy Moore’s did when he stood for Alabama’s open senate seat. The far-right feel empowered by the recent political trends, particularly by the President. Liam Stack reported for the New York Times that although Jones declined to say whether he was a Nazi or not, he said he stood “shoulder to shoulder, philosophically” with President Trump.

This empowerment given by Trump, whether he agrees with everything the recent candidates say or not, means more despicable people will be running for office. The Republicans were not ready for Roy Moore, their incumbent Luther Strange lost the primary to him, and the Republicans were not ready for Arthur Jones, they couldn’t even manage to field an opponent. They need to ensure that if, as some of them say, their party has no place for men like Jones, that strong opposition is provided. If it isn’t, then it becomes less and less clear whether the party dislikes men like Arthur Jones, or, in the era of Trump, whether it will become the party that empowers them.

Photo Credit: Chicago Sun-Times.

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