Local Editorials

Our view: Lessons learned from Illinois' 3rd Congressional District? We hope so

Holocaust denier and self-described "white racialist" Arthur Jones, speaks to the Herald-News on Friday, July 6, 2018, in Joliet, Ill. Jones lost his bid for Illinois' Third District to incumbent Dan Lipinski.
Holocaust denier and self-described "white racialist" Arthur Jones, speaks to the Herald-News on Friday, July 6, 2018, in Joliet, Ill. Jones lost his bid for Illinois' Third District to incumbent Dan Lipinski.

We might all be better off having never heard the name Arthur Jones, but it’s impossible to change the past, or the fact that more than 50,000 people living in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District voted for an avowed white racialist and Holocaust denier.

It was fairly clear incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Lipisnki, D-Western Springs, wouldn’t face a serious challenge from Jones, and the totals bore that out, with Lipinski winning by about six figures. But still, Jones — a former member of the American National Socialist Workers Party, a Nazi — picked up tens of thousands of votes by simple virtue of running as a Republican.

This is someone openly against settled civil rights laws, such as the legality of interracial marriage and segregated schools, to say nothing of his unabashed anti-Semitism and deplorable comments about the Holocaust.

The question of how the votes came to be goes all the way back to how Jones got on the ballot: he got 832 signatures on a nominating petition, ran unopposed in the GOP primary and no third-party candidates surfaced.

In Will County, where Jones got nearly 12,000 votes, Young Republicans President Cornel Darden said his group worked to convince people to not vote for Jones, but ultimately the power of blind party unity prevailed.

“I’m all but certain about 25 percent of people go to the polls and they’re voting straight Democrat ... or Republican,” Darden said. “They’re just looking for the little ‘R.’ ”

That, ultimately, is the larger problem.

Jones obviously deserves no role in government, and we don’t think there’s actually 50,000 people who support his views on race and religion. It would be equally foolish to say none of those voters actually endorse Jones’ brand of prejudice, but Darden’s assessment seems fair: straight ticket votes are quick and easy, and if you don’t do any research you don’t face any hard choices at the polls.

We believe the vast majority of the registered Republicans here truly believe in the party’s high-minded ideals, things like limited government and keeping taxes under control.

This paper endorsed a good many Republican candidates as the best to lead our readers going forward, and we do not take lightly the sincere efforts of state party leaders to distance themselves from Jones. Nor do we operate under the pretense that Democrats are free of extremists who aspire to elected office.

Still, we hope the Jones experience sends a message to both major parties to invest in every race possible, for surely some Republican in the 3rd could’ve mounted a decent primary campaign to keep Jones off the November ballot. Simply running a race the odds show is difficult is a chance to put good ideas forth to let the public consider, and it helps keep the powerful accountable. Why yield those opportunities to crackpots and demagogues?

More importantly, we want voters to consider that they are Americans and Illinoisans before they are Republicans or Democrats, and that a candidate earns no automatic respect simply by aligning with one political party. Politicians should have to earn votes by virtue of their positions and record, and 50,000 votes for someone like Arthur Jones shows we’re a long away from that ideal.

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