By now most of you will have heard that Arthur Jones has managed to get himself on the Republican primary election ballot for the 3rd Congressional District in Illinois.
This is not Arthur Jones’ first attempt to win the GOP nomination for the seat. He put himself on the primary ballot in 2016, and was the only GOP candidate. However, the GOP went to court and succeeded in having him removed from the ballot because of petition signature issues. This left the Democratic nominee to win in an uncontested election. This time around, Jones appears to have ticked all of the boxes for the legality of his primary election submission.
There seems little doubt that Jones is a Nazi. The evidence is fairly compelling. He is a former leader of the American Nazi party, and is on record as claiming up to the present day that the Holocaust is a “racket” i.e. mostly a fabrication. He has a track record of blatantly anti-Jewish remarks.
A lot of people are hot under the collar about Jones’ appearance on any ballot.
We should not be surprised that this has happened.
Arthur Jones has not suddenly leaped into prominence in the GOP because the GOP has become a party of Nazis. He simply used a feature of the current political system; namely that anybody who can obtain the necessary number of supporter signatures and pay a filing fee can run for office. This is a good feature. We do not want a system where only the wealthy, or those with the right connections, can run for political office.
Personally, I also want Nazis to be public about their odious ideology and ideas. I want to have those ideas demolished in public, so that the entire Nazi movement can once again be consigned to the trash bin of human history.
Is Jones’ entry on the GOP primary ballot the result of a shift in the American political climate towards the normalization of racist and fascist ideology? That is a tempting hypothesis in the current climate, but I doubt its validity.
The real underlying issue is that 90% of Congressional races are not competitive. They are not competitive because over the last 60 years, the two major political parties have, by subtle electoral gerrymandering, slowly reduced the number of truly competitive House seats to a fraction of the total. This has resulted in a an incumbent class of representatives dominating congressional politics.
Most seats are now stacked heavily in favor of one of the parties, to the extent that a dead tree stump could probably get elected from the party that dominates the electoral map of the district.
Because the general election itself is usually a foregone conclusion, this has two consequences, both of them negative:
1. Good prospective candidates from a minority party have no interest in running in the primary election, except possibly as a one-off to show that they have the “right stuff” to later run for election elsewhere. Why invest time and donor money on a lost cause?
2. The primary elections, which are usually dominated by the hardcore support base of the two major parties, decide who will be the elected representative.
Neither of these are good outcomes. For an election system based on universal suffrage to be credible, it must be demonstrably fair in its structure and execution, and enough of the electorate has to participate for the winning candidates to be able to plausibly claim that they were elected by enough of the electorate to give their position and actions credibility. An election determined 6 months in advance by a few hundred primary voters does not meet either of the above criteria.
The GOP clearly understands how toxic Arthur Jones is to their party and their brand image. They want nothing to do with him.
However, one can make the case that it is partly the GOP’s fault that Jones is the GOP nominee. They could have run an “establishment” candidate, but chose to not do so (one suspects that no mainstream GOP person was interested in wasting the time and effort to run), handing him the opening to run for the GOP primary election. So, whether they want him or not, they are stuck with him sailing under the GOP banner for the next few months.
The good news is that Arthur Jones is highly unlikely to win the election in the 3rd Congressional District. This is a solidly Democratic electoral zone. In the 2014 and 2012 elections, the incumbent Democratic congressman won the district by an average of 65% to 35%. So it is long odds-on that Jones will be defeated by a large margin. The GOP will therefore not try the Roy Moore approach of vacillating over supporting him, distancing themselves from him in public while secretly funneling money and support to him in private. The GOP has no chance of winning the seat.
Since he is already disowned by the GOP, Jones will be unconstrained, and we can expect to read more incendiary comments and allegations from him as he seeks to gain attention. To use the old military expression, Jones will therefore cause collateral damage to the GOP by his very appearance on the ballot. The Democratic Party will seek to use his utterances as proof that the GOP supports racists and nazis. That may help them nationally, but, as is usual in the adversarial two party system, it completely ignores the underlying causes of why crackpots like Arthur Jones can even gain any traction.