The racist candidates are expected to lose, but they could drag their party down with them.
In at least five state and national races across the country, the Republican Party is dealing with an uncomfortable problem. Their party’s candidates are either a card-carrying Nazi, a Holocaust denier, a proud white supremacist, or all of the above.
In North Carolina, for example, GOP officials are stuck with Russell Walker, a white supremacist running for the state House of Representatives. According to his personal website (littered with the n-word), he believes that “the jews are NOT semitic they are satanic as they all descend from Satan.”
Republicans in the state have regrets. “This is a very Democratic district, one that we failed to keep our eye on,” Dallas Woodhouse, executive chair of the North Carolina GOP, told me in an email. “However, we can’t stop him from running.”
In Illinois, meanwhile, the Republican Party shrugged off Arthur Jones, a primary candidate who boasted of his membership in the American Nazi Party. But Jones won, and now party officials, including ones who called Jones “morally reprehensible” and “a complete nutcase,” are scrambling to launch a write-in campaign. Jones’s campaign website features a section called “Holocaust?” in which he argues that the “idea that six million Jews, were killed by the National Socialist government of Germany, in World War II, is the biggest, blackest lie in history.”
In Virginia, the chair of the state GOP resigned earlier this month, reportedly because of alt-right leaning, pro-Confederate candidate Corey Stewart’s win in the Republican primary. But even Stewart had to disavow Wisconsin’s Paul Nehlen, who is running to replace Speaker Paul Ryan. Nehlen’s too racist for Twitter and even for Gab, the preferred social media platform of the alt-right. Meanwhile, a California Republican running for Congress has been making appearances on neo-Nazi podcasts and argues on his campaign website that “diversity” is a Jewish plot. (The California GOP has disavowed him.)
Racial animus helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump. Since the end of the civil rights movement and under Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s “Southern strategy” that used racism as an unstated cudgel against Democrats, the Republican Party itself has played a welcoming host to racial tensions and fears. Simultaneously, it has depicted itself, as conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby put it in 2012, as “the party of color-blind equality and “a party that doesn’t think with its skin.”
But in a year when the left is energized in opposition to Trump, particularly by his policies toward minority groups and immigrants, and as the GOP tries to hang on to their majorities in Congress and state houses around the country, state party officials say they do not need racist fringe candidates running for office. None of these candidates is expected to win in the general election this fall, but they are going to give liberals on the hunt for examples of simmering neo-Nazi and neo-Confederate rhetoric at least five places to point.
An anti-Trump Nazi is running in Illinois
Arthur Jones, an independent insurance salesperson known as “Art,” regrets voting for Donald Trump. But he’s got a different reason than most who’ve thought twice about their vote. In a speech in April 2017, Jones said:
The Jewish lobby has Donald Trump locked up. I don’t think the man realizes how naive he appears to the rest of the world. He’s nothing but a puppet in their hands. And we were foolish enough to send this naive, Jew-loving fool into the White House. I’m embarrassed that I voted for him. I’m sorry I voted for him. If I could take the vote back, I would in a minute.
Art is a card-carrying Nazi. Jones reportedly once led the American Nazi Party, and he was a member of a later version of the ANP, the National Socialist White People’s Party.
His website says he’s “concerned about the future of our country,” which, for a normal politician, might sound like a generic call for more spending on their generic priorities. But it takes on a very different connotation when you click over to the section called “Holocaust?,” a page that features a variety of conspiracy theories and racist ideas shared by the Holocaust-denier world.
Jones also brags about protesting against Elie Wiesel, who wrote one of the most renowned memoirs of surviving the Holocaust, Night. (To be clear: This is not an oppo-research photo. It is posted proudly on Jones’s own site.)
Jones’s ideas aren’t resonating widely with suburban Chicago voters. He is expected to lose. In 2016, the district went to the Democratic incumbent Dan Lipinski, who won 100 percent of the vote because no Republican bothered to run against him. Jones only got on the ballot because, as the Atlantic detailed earlier this year, he went door to door gathering signatures (and not mentioning his views on race or Jewish people). By December, he was the only Republican to file to run.
Jones will lose and he could drag the GOP through the mud behind him
State Assembly member David McSweeney, a Republican, spoke with me about what Jones’s run could mean for his party. “The guy is a complete jerk and a nutcase,” he said, adding, “it’s politically harmful to have a jerk and a nutcase like this associated with the party.”
McSweeney is mad at Republicans in Illinois for failing to take Jones seriously at every turn: They said nothing as he gathered signatures to run, they didn’t challenge the signatures when he submitted them, and they didn’t try to run an alternative write-in candidate in the primary. Then, just two weeks ago, they missed an important filing deadline to get a third-party candidate on the ballot.
Sen. Ted Cruz heard the news about the missed deadline and said voters should support a write-in candidate or support the Democrat. “This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes.”
This is horrific. An avowed Nazi running for Congress. To the good people of Illinois, you have two reasonable choices: write in another candidate, or vote for the Democrat. This bigoted fool should receive ZERO votes. https://t.co/9WYlvCMKaF
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 29, 2018
The GOP has since scrambled into action. McSweeney is pleased that it appears the Illinois GOP will finally work to support a write-in candidate to challenge Jones. But the damage, some in the party argue, has been done.
“Morally reprehensible, that is the most important part,” Mcsweeney told me. “It’s just a disaster. This guy is a complete jackass, a complete nutcase, and doesn’t represent anything from the party that we’re all part of. It’s just absolutely necessary to make sure the people know that this guy is a fraud, a nutcase, a loser, and should be shunned, and hopefully gets zero votes except for his own pitiful vote.”
(When Jones was told by Politico there would be no third-party challenger from the GOP on his race, he said, “I snookered them. … I played by the rules, what can I say?”)
North Carolina’s GOP has a proud racist on the ballot
About 800 miles southeast of Chicago, Russell Walker, a retired chemical engineer, is running to represent District 48 in the North Carolina state House of Representatives. On his website he explains that he believes white people are superior and that there is “no such thing as equality.”
The latest and the most demonized expression in the English language, surpassing hate and racist is –”White Supremacy”. Well someone or group has to be supreme and that group is the whites of the world. As explained in detail in another section of this website, there is no such thing as equality. Someone or something has to be superior and someone or something has to be inferior. That is just such a simple fact that it needs no explanation.
He has picketed a local newspaper while holding a sign stating, “GOD IS A RACIST.” He refers to Barack Obama as “genetically inferior” and says “woman are [sic] the weaker sex.” He refers to white women who have interracial relationships as “race traitors.” And according to his appearance this week on the neo-Nazi Stormfront Action podcast, he’s advising Arthur Jones, saying: “Jones is for real. He has strong ideas about Nazism.”
Walker gained some national notoriety in 2017 when, during a television interview following a lawsuit he filed to keep the Confederate flag in South Carolina courtrooms was dismissed, he referred to Martin Luther King Jr. using a racial slur.
— Yoojin Cho (@Yoojin_Cho) August 24, 2017
The North Carolina Republican Party has repeatedly disavowed Walker’s campaign, as has the Hoke County Republican Party. (Hoke is one of the counties included within Walker’s district.)
In a June 26 post on a county party website, SaveHoke.com, Hal Nunn, county party chair, stated: “The Hoke County Republican Party agrees with NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes comments on the Republican candidate for NC House 48 race and adds that this person’s actions and comments, past/present, are completely disturbing, and we will not support a candidate with such racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and anti-military views.”
Mark Schenck, chair of the Scotland County Republican Party (also included within Walker’s district), went further, blasting Walker in an email sent to a North Carolina journalist: “Russell Walker does not represent Republican Values. Republicans are said to be the Party of Lincoln, Walker hates Lincoln.”
Walker responded by threatening both Schenck and Nunn. He and Schenck had a confrontation on June 25. A day later, after Nunn posted on SaveHoke.com that the Hoke County GOP wouldn’t be supporting Walker, Walker wrote Nunn an email “telling, not politely asking” him that the post must be taken down.
Walker also left a voicemail for Nunn (you can listen to it here), threatening to force foreclosure on Nunn’s home and cars (“I’ll put liens on your house, every goddamn car I can find and everything else”). He also said, “You don’t know where Jews come from.”
On July 2, Walker was sent a “no trespassing” notice by the North Carolina GOP, which stated in part: “The North Carolina Republican Party did not make this decision lightly; however, due to your recent behavior and threatening messages we feel it to be necessary. The Party has determined that your presence at the events and on Party offices or property impair the functioning of the Party.”
Signs of a bigger problem for the GOP
Walker — and Jones, Corey Stewart, a neo-Nazi running for office as a Republican in California, and others — are a problem for Republicans and the GOP at large.
The party has responded largely by either condemning and attempting to disavow far-right candidates while arguing that somewhere, a Democrat is doing something even more dastardly (praising anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, for example). Or they maintain complete radio silence about candidates who claim the party’s mantle despite openly embracing the worst of the alt-right.
As Democrats try to hold onto a polling lead in advance of this fall’s midterm elections, they have and will tie racist and far-right leaning Republican candidates to other Republicans running for office or already serving, forcing Republicans to either disavow them or risk appearing soft on anti-Semitic racism.
Racist rhetoric, after all, doesn’t typically serve Republicans well electorally. In Virginia’s 2017 governor’s race, for example, Republican Ed Gillespie rode hard on NFL protests and keeping Confederate statues in place — and lost, as Democratic and independent voters were motivated to turn out in part by Gillespie’s strategy.
Not to mention that racism is inherently anathema to minority votes. A critical rise in black turnout in Alabama’s Senate special election helped push Democrat Doug Jones over controversial Republican Roy Moore. One activist told the Atlantic that black voters were responding to “the resurgence of this white conservative overtly racist rhetoric.” Bad Republican candidates also depress Republican voting. In that Alabama election, thousands of voters — including many who supported Donald Trump in 2016 — simply didn’t show up.
More important, candidates like Walker and Jones threaten to further inculcate the idea that the Republican Party is inherently susceptible to candidates who espouse racist and anti-Semitic ideas. The Republican Party is, after all, both the party of Lincoln, and the party of Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater’s Southern strategy aimed at getting racists on board without, in Atwater’s own words, “saying, ‘nigger, nigger, nigger.’” And it’s also the party of the nation’s most prominent birther, who rode to the White House on a wave of what researchers in December 2017 called “racial resentment.”
In the wake of Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” comments after Charlottesville, and with his outward support of Corey Stewart and silence on other extremist candidates, and with what feels like more and more Republican candidates with connections to racist and anti-Semitic ideas and figures emerging by the day, that idea isn’t likely to go away.