Arthur Jones, a neo-Nazi, outspoken anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, wants to be a Republican congressman from the Land of Lincoln.
This is neither a joke nor an exaggeration. The 64-year-old Jones, who organizes "family friendly" celebrations of Adolf Hitler's birthday and maintains that "the Holocaust never happened," actually is a candidate in this year's Republican primary in Illinois's 3rd Congressional District.
Jones faces two other opponents in the primary, which means that he could theoretically become the nominee with just 35% of the vote.
"As far as I'm concerned, the Holocaust is nothing more than an international extortion racket by the Jews," Jones said. "It's the blackest lie in history. Millions of dollars are being made by Jews telling this tale of woe and misfortune in books, movies, plays and TV.
"The more survivors, the more lies that are told."
Jones, an unrepentant erstwhile member of the American National Socialist party, has actually declared that, "Philosophically, I'm a National Socialist."
To his credit, Illinois GOP state chairman Pat Brady has called Jones's views "repugnant," and insists that "his candidacy should not and will not be supported in any way by the Illinois Republican Party."
What troubles me, however, is that, to the best of my knowledge at least, Jones has not been renounced by the leadership of the national Republican Party. I know that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been otherwise preoccupied as of late, but it would be nice if they would at the very least take a few minutes out of their busy campaign schedule to reassure us that they do not want to appear on the same ballot line as Jones. And what about House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell? Could they possibly be prevailed upon to stop disparaging President Obama long enough to address what's happening on their side of the aisle?
Asked about the support he is receiving from white supremacists, survivalists and assorted anti-Semites in this year's presidential derby, Texas Representative Ron Paul told the New York Times in December that "I wouldn't be happy with that." Nonetheless, Paul has not rejected their support. "If they want to endorse me," Paul said, "they're endorsing what I do or say -- it has nothing to do with endorsing what they say." That's nowhere near good enough.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama unambiguously rejected and repudiated Louis Farrakhan, calling the Nation of Islam leader's anti-Israel and anti-Jewish tirades "unacceptable and reprehensible." Similarly, in a June 1992 speech to the Rainbow Coalition, presidential candidate Bill Clinton denounced the incendiary anti-white rhetoric of the hip-hop rap artist, Sister Souljah, thereby incurring the Rev. Jesse Jackson's wrath.
Arthur Jones has provided an opportunity for a Republican Sister Souljah moment. With the Tea Party dragging the GOP further and further to the extreme, reactionary right, we need senior Republicans on the national level to draw a line in the sand and declare publicly that they do not want Nazis, neo-Nazis, white supremacists or, for that matter, homophobes and likeminded bigots, anywhere near their party.
Let us not forget that not all that long ago, in 1991, when former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who had previously been elected as a Republican member of the Louisiana State House of Representatives and had frequently worn a Nazi uniform in his youth, was the Republican candidate for his state's governorship, President George H.W. Bush unequivocally disavowed him as not deserving "one iota of public trust. When someone has so recently endorsed Nazism, it is inconceivable that someone can reasonably aspire to a leadership role in a free society." But it seems that those may have been other times.
Jones's candidacy is not the only ominous sign that holding reprehensible views is no longer a disqualification in certain political circles. Peter Brimelow, the white supremacist founder of the anti-immigration website VDARE, was a featured panelist at this year's CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, without any apparent objection by any of the other speakers there. Brimelow's website, incidentally, has charged Jews with "weakening America's historic White majority." How sharing a platform with Brimelow could not have been anathema to the other CPAC participants is beyond me.
Last year, Harriet E. Kester-Paletti, a self-described National Socialist Movement "sergeant" who, according to Eve Conant of the Daily Beast, "only takes off her swastika when she's at work," formally notified the mayor of New Berlin, Wisconsin, of her intention to run for public office in that town. Kester-Paletti, one of whose children is appropriately enough named Aryan, runs an accounting service that is linked to a classified ad on the white nationalist website Stormfront.com urging similarly minded bigots to "Please stop using main Jew owned tax services from H&R Block and use one of your own! Please share and pass along."
The Durango Herald recently quoted Cole Thornton, Imperial Grand Wizard of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Colorado, as saying that "We're not here just to be against blacks. We're against a lot of white people -- like child molesters." Moreover, Thornton, who supports Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination, went on that "I'm really pleased with the kind of people we're getting in -- college-educated, professionals, teachers -- even a couple congressmen. People would be amazed to know who I've talked with at midnight in isolated areas -- it's almost comical."
We all know that the Kester-Palettis, Brimelows and Joneses in our midst are a manifestation of the darkest side of human nature. So are the unnamed "couple congressmen" referred to by Thornton. The question on the table is whether anyone on their side of the ever-widening political divide has the courage to declare publicly that their noxious views do not belong in the American political mainstream, and that there are some votes that must be jettisoned for the sake of a party's moral soul.
Menachem Z. Rosensaft is general counsel of the World Jewish Congress and vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. He teaches about the law of genocide and World War II war crimes trials at the law schools of Columbia, Cornell and Syracuse.