Justin Hanson, a LaGrange resident who ran a serious and thoughtful, though ultimately unsuccessful, write-in campaign in the 3rd Congressional District, remarked that while he was campaigning door-to-door, there were perhaps 200 people he talked to who knew about the neo-Nazi past of Republican nominee Art Jones, but were going to cast a ballot for him anyway.
Think about that.
People intentionally voted for a neo-Nazi simply because he wasn’t a Democrat — even if the Democrat on the ballot is one of the most conservative Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
These voters weren’t uninformed. They’d read or had seen the coverage of Jones’ candidacy. It was hard to miss. They didn’t care. People were OK with voting for a neo-Nazi. There were two Will County precincts where Jones collected the most votes.
Hanson chalked it up to “tribalism.”
We think Hanson is being kind to those voters. When members of your tribe seek to subvert the cherished, foundational principles upon which this nation was supposedly built (though admittedly, the record has been spotty for the last 250 years), you reject them; you don’t embrace them.
To the credit of many GOP voters, it appears that’s what most did. While Jones got about 56,000 votes, he fared worse than other recent mainstream Republican contenders in the 3rd District, which has been in Democratic hands for decades.
It’s bad enough that people cast ballots for candidates they know nothing about. That’s how, in 1986, two followers of Lyndon LaRouche won Democratic primaries for Illinois lieutenant governor and secretary of state.
But Hanson’s experience told him something different — that candidates who openly espouse hate and bigotry are actually attractive, as long as they have the right political party name attached to them. That’s remarkable.
Both Hanson and Kenneth Yerkes got roughly the same number of write-in votes, a little more than 1,000 apiece, in the huge 3rd District, which stretches from near Midway Airport to Joliet — less than 1 percent each.
True, write-ins face a steep challenge in getting their names and messages known, but that seems to us a very small number in a race where a good amount of news coverage exposed the Republican nominee as an avowed white supremacist.
Probably the best thing we can say is that the third certified write-in in that race, Richard Mayers, a white supremacist and perennial candidate who in 2005 vandalized videos about the Holocaust at the Riverside Public Library and threw up Nazi salutes during an unrelated court hearing, got just four votes.
One was surely his own. But who the heck were the other three? The mind boggles.