The Terrifying Candidates Up For Election In America's Midterms
Neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists and racists: meet my country's scariest batch of candidates vying for a seat in the US Congress.
After two years of an ever-widening ideological canyon between US voters, today’s midterm elections are America's first chance to check the politics of Trumpism at the polls.
Up for grabs are 470 congressional seats: 35 in the Senate, 435 in the House of Representatives. As I write this, Republicans are in control of both.
Democrats have a real chance of taking control in at least one chamber, and they want that more than any other point in American history.
On the other side of the divide, Republican candidates have largely embraced Trump’s brash brand of nationalism, and seem increasingly unaware that the moral superiority they claim is fundamentally at odds with the ugly realities behind the rhetoric.
Nah, let’s be frank, they know they need the alt-right votes to better their chances of retaining power. The extremist right came out in spades for Trump in 2016. And this year, emboldened by Trump’s victory and his reluctance to disavow them, some of their ranks are running for congress.
In an effort to further underscore the importance of this election, and examine how extreme American politics has become, let’s take a look at a few of the scariest right-wing candidates on the Republican ticket.
Arthur Jones, Illinois
Let’s start in Illinois, where a self-described Nazi is vying for a seat in the US House of Representatives.
Much to the chagrin of Illinois conservatives, veteran white supremacist and Holocaust denier Arthur Jones is the sole Republican candidate competing to represent the state’s 3rd Congressional District.
Jones probably didn’t expect to make it this far, especially after the Illinois Republican Party enthusiastically condemned him. But the Party failed to establish a candidate to challenge Jones in the primary, and couldn’t find legal grounds to knock him off the ballot.
Jones took home more than 20,000 of the 115,886 total votes in the primary. His Democratic opponent, incumbent Daniel Lipinski garnered some 48,675. A Lipinski victory is all but guaranteed today, but one can’t help but wonder just how many votes an open neo-Nazi can pull in the sour age of Trump.
Bill Fawell, Illinois
On the other side of the state, a right-wing conspiracy zealot’s running to unseat the Democratic representative of Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.
Like Jones, Bill Fawell ran uncontested in the Republican primary, making him the de facto candidate on Tuesday’s ballot. Unlike Jones, Fawell enjoyed Illinois Republican endorsement until relatively recently. The Party stuck with Fawell after a May 25 CNN report outed his zeal for September 11 conspiracy theories and published his suspicions of Beyoncé's, Taylor Swift's and Madonna's ties to the Illuminati, but ultimately rescinded endorsement in August after a cursory glance at the candidate’s “Elect Fawell” Facebook page.
Here they found the same kind of all-caps conspiracy rhetoric CNN alleged, and more. Fawell repeatedly made posts attributing the September 11 attacks to the CIA and the Israeli Mossad and suggested the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, which left 20 children and six teachers dead, was a "false flag operation." (Paranoid American gun freaks regularly allege our nation’s all-too-common mass shootings are in fact covert government operations designed to push congress toward enacting some kind of gun ban, or even an outright repeal of the Second Amendment guaranteeing Americans' right to bear arms.)
Fawell has no path to victory in Illinois’ heavily democratic 17th Congressional District, but as with Jones, that’s not really the point. How does a sentient tin foil hat get here in the first place? And why did it take Republicans so long to disavow his candidacy?
John Fitzgerald, California
One might expect this kind of cartoon villainy is effectively quarantined to the stereotypically less urbane American heartland. Nope.
In California’s San Francisco Bay Area -- a liberal stronghold -- a holocaust denier is running to represent the state’s 11th Congressional District. As the only Republican vying for this seat, John Fitzgerald received automatic endorsement by the California Republican Party. That endorsement proved short-lived. California Republicans rescinded their endorsement and publicly condemned Fitzgerald for his anti-Semitic statements, including language on his campaign website urging people to pay attention to “Jewish supremacism.”
A week later Fitzgerald garnered 23 percent of votes cast in his district (some 36,000 of more than 156,000 total) in California’s June 5 open primary. This second place finish behind Democratic candidate Mark DeSaulnier clinched Fitzgerald a spot on today’s ballot.
Fitzgerald doubled down on his anti-Semitic rhetoric after his primary victory, stating on a British holocaust denier’s podcast that “Everything we’ve been told about the holocaust is a lie,” and, “My entire campaign, for the most part, is about exposing this lie.” In an interview with the New York Times, Fitzgerald noted a lack of surprise at the California Republicans disavowal of his candidacy, stating that both major US political parties are run by “Jewish elitists.”
There was a time not long ago that I would’ve told you dangerous lunatics like these had no chance attaining political office, but I can no longer be so certain.
Trump’s election to the highest office in the land brought these cretins out of the rotten woodwork. And if man like that can become president, how far-fetched a notion is a white nationalist stalking the halls of Congress? Not too far.
Steve King, Iowa
In fact, we’ve already got one, and he’s been there since 2003. And on Tuesday he’s up for re-election in Northwest Iowa’s deeply red 4th Congressional District.
But Republican congressman Steve King is facing a greater challenge than he likely expected in this year’s midterm election. The eight-term congressman’s long history of incendiary xenophobic, nativist, racist comments appears to have finally caught up with him.
King is flailing under the spotlights of national media attention for his recent praise of white nationalist politicians and groups abroad and his refusal to delete a retweeted anti-immigration message penned by a self-described Nazi-sympathizer.
And in the last two weeks, corporate donors severed ties with King, as did the National Republican Congressional Committee shortly after its leader, congressman Steve Stivers, rebuked him, stating, “Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”
Top Republican brass at the national level, however, remain silent. This includes House Speaker Paul Ryan, who received a letter from prominent civil rights group the Anti-Defamation League on October 31 requesting he take formal action against King for his public flirtations with white nationalists.
With the October 28 hate-motivated mass shooting of 11 congregants at a Pennsylvania Synagogue fresh on American minds, Ryan’s silence is deafening. But not surprising.
Amidst the dizzying scatalogical maelstrom of Trump’s presidency, it's painfully clear that America isn’t nearly as socially evolved as so many of its citizens so naively believed a mere two years ago.
Now, all eyes will be on the midterms, with the hope the devolution can still be stemmed.