The Scene: After the events in Charlottesville,Virginia last summer, white supremacy in the United States has continued to gather strength and rise to national attention. Perhaps the most surprising result has been at the ballot box, where white supremacist candidates, all running as Republicans, have jumped into the ring as congressional candidates - and some of them have won.
• Regarding the candidacy of Arthur Jones, a Republican running for Congress in Illinois’ third congressional district, Aly Niehans writes: “Jones’ candidacy speaks not only to the incompetence of the Illinois Republican party in being unable to find anyone else to run against a literal real-life Nazi, but also to the general failings of the democratic system in allowing a man with blatantly harmful, hate-filled views combined with ignorant denial of the largest genocide the world has seen to participate in an election for federal office.
• The Republican Party of Illinois has, as their very likely nominee, a man who will spend the next six months preaching hate and irrational, false theories with the support of one of the two political parties. That in itself lends an air of legitimacy to Jones, a legitimacy he certainly doesn’t deserve and will most likely exploit to his own benefit.”
• Also writing about Jones, Sercan Oktay argues for free speech, even when the message been heard is undesirable: “I speak for the overwhelming majority when I say I wouldn’t want to hear such hate-filled views voiced in mainstream media or anywhere else, yet there is a major difference between this and not allowing people to voice their opinions. I firmly believe in upholding the notion of free speech, which is unfortunately not easy to accomplish. It means that this right must be protected even in cases like that of Jones where it would be more than reasonable to restrict the spread of his hateful and baseless beliefs.”
• “There is a fine line between allowing freedom of speech and letting it be used as a guise to promote dangerous ideas. I don’t believe restricting mainstream media airtime to only expressing accepted points of view is the right way to achieve this balance, since it runs into the subjective difficulty of defining what is an acceptable view and what isn’t. Much more importantly, I hold that not allowing those like Jones to express their views helps their cause.”
• “Not allowing unconventional ideas to be voiced in mainstream media does not mean that they will cease to exist. Rather, it fuels beliefs, like those of Jones, that the ‘media can’t stand the truth.’”
The Bottom Line: Running for public office is just that - a public office. As the views of candidates like Arthur Jones and John Fitzgerald of California demonstrate, just because someone’s beliefs are deplorable does not bar them from running. What we should be asking ourselves is where the beliefs of these men, such as the Holocaust being fake, or the genetic superiority of white people over other races, came from, and why they believe them. Arthur Jones ran unopposed in his primary but still received 20,000+ votes. Did that many voters simply see an R next to his name and check the box, or did they knowingly vote for a Nazi? This is a pivotal moment for the American identity, particularly for the GOP, as we decide where to draw the line.