Every election cycle features a few unique events that, while they may or may not be representative of national trends, often remind us how chaotic our Democracy can be. 2018 will be no exception. This year, one of the most conservative elections will take place, not in West Virginia or Wyoming–places that one would usually expect to find self-identified conservatives on both sides of a given ticket–but in Illinois. Specifically, Illinois’ 3rd district a solidly Democratic district that encompasses much of the Chicago suburbs and parts of Chicago itself. This year, the 3rd district will be the staging ground for one of the most interesting, and perhaps one of the most terrifying races in this cycle.
Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, is the six-term incumbent Representative for the 3rd district. Lipinski is something of an anomaly amongst his Democratic colleagues. First, he is a college professor, one of just eleven PhD’s in the House of Representatives and one of just three with a PhD in political science. Second, he may be one of the most undemocratically elected Representatives having essentially inherited his seat from his father, Bill Lipinski, a local party machine leader who sneakily engineered his son’s election to his seat upon his retirement. Finally, despite being from a solidly blue district, Lipinski is the 7th most conservative Democrat in the House of Representatives. He is a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, and he is pro-life, having voted for a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, making him one of just three Democrats to do so.
He’s also hawkish on immigration, having voted for Kate’s law, a bill that would increase penalties for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the US after being convicted of crimes, and for a bill that would give the government more power to deport immigrants suspected of being in gangs. He voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010, voted for Patriot Act and to expand several domestic surveillance programs, was against the legalization of gay marriage and is aligned with Trump on manufacturing policy. According to FiveThirtyEight, he’s the 10th most likely Democrat to vote for bills that Donald Trump supports. He refused to back Barack Obama for President despite being from his home state of Illinois. In short, he’s well to the right of the Democratic base.
So it may come as some surprise that he represents a district that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a 15 point margin and Barack Obama in 2008 by a 29 point margin. The 3rd district also voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic Primary. That is probably why Lipinski has attracted a challenger from the left in Marie Newman, a progressive activist.
Newman is described as a “Bernie Sanders-styled progressive,” and she certainly lives up to the part. Despite having been an executive at several large companies the owner of her own company, she is very active in non-profit activism including as the managing director of her own anti-bullying campaign, as well as an advocate for cancer research and gun control. She has garnered significant endorsements from progressive public figures and grassroots organizations. These include scores of local grassroots and indivisible organizations, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and several of Lipinski’s more progressive House colleagues including two from his own state. Newman also has the backing of US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, often seen as one of the liberal standard-bearers of the Democratic Party.
Newman’s strategy is to paint herself as a true ideological representative of Illinois’ 3rd district, as opposed to Lipinski who is seen as a DINO (Democrat in name only) by many Democrats. Her website labels him a “career politician” with a “far-right record.” Lipinski, who has received the endorsements of many local lawmakers and unions, often patrons of local political machines, seems to be running a standard campaign based on his record and experience. Newman’s challenge to her fellow Democrat is not unprecedented. It is a common practice in congressional elections for centrist incumbents to face challengers from their party’s more extremist flanks (e.g. Tea Party insurgents in 2010). This race falls in line with a trend of progressives trying to seize seats nationwide from incumbents like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
The only poll in the field so far shows a competitive race, though it is important to note that it is an internal Newman campaign poll and, as FiveThirtyEight polling gurus will often remind you: be wary of judging a race based on scant polling. Nevertheless, the Democratic race is shaping up to be an exciting one. The Republican race is a different story altogether.
At this moment, the only candidate for the Republican nomination is Arthur Jones. Considering the filing deadline was in December, he is the presumptive nominee. Jones is a controversial figure in Illinois politics for a pretty good reason: Jones is a neo-nazi. His website features one page entitled “Holocaust?” which is exactly as vile as it sounds, and one called “Flags of Conflict,” which describes the Confederate flag as a “symbol of White [sic] pride and White [sic] resistance” (I won’t link to his website for obvious reasons). His white supremacist and anti-semitic curriculum vitae is formidable. He ran for mayor of Milwaukee as a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party, he is a former member of the American Nazi party and he is considered a career extremist by the Anti-Defamation League.
Jones shouldn’t get a large word count. The Vassar Political Review is dedicated to political pluralism, but hateful ideologies like his should not be given a platform. We won’t be the ones to give it, nor should any other respectable news organization (Looking at you, CNN). His candidacy is inherently an opportunistic one and follows a recent trend of white supremacist elements making their way into the mainstream through branding like the “alt-right” and “America First.”
Jones’s candidacy in itself is not a phenomenon–Jones is a perennial candidate who has run for various political offices over the course of three decades. However, in the context of recent political events including Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and Charlottesville, as well as the general co-opting of the Republican party by Trumpist and alt-right elements, Jones’s candidacy comes almost comes as no surprise. But we cannot normalize it. This is not normal. Say it with me: this is not normal!
While the Vassar Political Review’s editors have elected to refrain from making endorsements, I would like to urge the residents of Illinois’ 3rd district not to vote for Arthur Jones. Vote Lipinski or Newman. Vote Libertarian. Write in your dog’s name for goodness’ sake. But do not, under any circumstances, vote for Arthur Jones. Remember, this is not normal. Don’t make it normal.
Andrew Solender ’20 is a political science major, the Editor-in-Chief of the VPR, a former columnist for the Miscellany News and a contributor to the Poughkeepsie Journal and Psychology Today.