Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Come November, a Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi sympathizer could represent the GOP on the ballot in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District.
Arthur Jones, who has unsuccessfully run for the Republican nomination in the 3rd District five times before, is running unopposed this year, all but guaranteeing him the party’s nomination. The district is deep blue, having been won by Democrats in every election since 1974. In fact, the biggest challenge to current incumbent Dan Lipinski, who has served Illinois’s 3rd District since 2005, will come from his left in the form of Marie Newman, a progressive Democrat seeking to give voters a liberal alternative to the more moderate Lipinski.
Knowing that they would likely face defeat in the general election, no other Republicans in the district are stepping up to challenge Jones for the nomination. By failing to do so, they are making a big mistake.
Jones is a former American Nazi Party leader, a self-described Holocaust denier and a white supremacist. His campaign website contains an entire page titled “Holocaust?” that is filled with anti-Semitic content and Holocaust denial. Another page titled “Hate Speech?” presents racist and anti-semitic remarks by Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Lindbergh, and Jesus Christ, whom Jones calls “four great men of history.”
Both the Illinois and National Republican Party have denounced Jones, but in times like these, that just doesn’t cut it. Over the past two years, we’ve seen people like David Duke and Roy Moore, who would have been considered radical, fringe candidates in the past, succeed in becoming mainstream candidates by running under the banner of the Republican Party. Not only does this look bad for a party that once prided itself on its values; it also looks bad for the country.
So what has allowed these radical, far-right ideologues to enter the mainstream in America? They have always been there, of course, but only recently have they been afforded a platform to spread their ideas. The first thing that comes to mind is President Donald Trump. Trump certainly has not been afraid to give the alt-right a platform since he was elected. And when he’s been given the chance, he has dodged every opportunity to give a full throated denunciation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
However, I would posit that the source of this platform is something deeper than Trump. By giving people like Trump, Moore, and Steve Bannon equal airtime, media companies haves inadvertently given far-right ideologues the platform they’ve always wanted.
On the morning of Feb. 8, CNN did the same for Arthur Jones. Despite the denunciations from the state and national Republican parties, CNN invited Jones onto its show and allowed him to spread his racist views.
In the U.S., the free press has a responsibility to keep the public informed and to keep the powerful in check. But when the media uses its power to give legitimacy to those who don’t deserve it, it is not doing its job.
Jones shouldn’t be ignored. He should be called out for his views at every opportunity. This country should stand against him and all others who hold similar views. But we cannot allow for them to have a platform to share those ideas, because that is how they enter the mainstream.
It may be too late for the Illinois Republican Party to replace Jones on the ballot, but voters in the 3rd District can still send him and the country a message on Nov. 6. Conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between should rally to defeat Jones and his hateful message by showing that we won’t stand for racism, anti-Semitism, or bigotry of any form any longer.
Max Breene is a sophomore government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.