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November 7, 2018 2:29 pm

Days After Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre, Neo-Nazi and Racist Candidates Chalk Up Thousands of Votes in Midterm Elections for US Congress

avatar by Ben Cohen


Anti-fascist demonstrators unfurling a banner at a rally in Oakland, Ca. in 2017. Photo: Reuters / Stephen Lam.

Less than a fortnight after the massacre of 11 Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, three openly white supremacist candidates running for the US Congress were roundly trounced in Tuesday’s midterm elections — but they still managed to garner nearly 200,000 votes between them, with all three winning above 25 percent of the vote in their districts.

“The fact that 200,000 people voted for candidates with positive views of Nazism and Hitler doesn’t mean those voters agree with those views,” Abraham Foxman — the national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday. “But what troubles me is the fact that those views were not enough for them to say, ‘I don’t care if I agree with you on immigration, your support for Hitlerism and Nazism disqualifies you from my support.'”

Added Foxman, who now heads an antisemitism study program at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City: “That’s just as scary as voting for them because you agree with those views. Any decent American should be able to say, ‘Regardless of whatever political issues we may agree on, I can’t vote for neo-Nazis.'”

The three candidates, two in Illinois and one in California, were all disowned earlier this year by the Republican Party nationally; each ran on GOP tickets after being elected unopposed during the party primaries.

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In the Illinois 3rd Congressional District, Arthur Jones — a former American Nazi Party activist with a fondness for dressing in Nazi uniforms — won 26.5 percent of the ballots cast, with 56,350 votes, in his defeat to Democratic candidate Dan Lipinski. A virulent Holocaust denier, Jones’ election website carries a section entitled “Holocaust?” which includes a screed with the headline, “The Holocaust Racket.” Among its assertions was a description of Jews as “bloodthirsty criminal vampires” who are now intent on pushing the US into a war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the far-right candidate in the Illinois 17th Congressional District, Bill Fawell, chalked up 86,218 votes — 38.2 percent of the ballots cast — in his loss to Democratic opponent Cheri Bustos. A dedicated conspiracy-monger, Fawell believes that the Al Qaeda atrocities of September 11, 2001 were “false flag” operations coordinated by the CIA and Israel’s Mossad intelligence service. Fawell has made similarly outrageous claims about the 2012 shooting massacre at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, CT., where 20 young children were murdered by gunman Adam Lanza.

In the California 11th Congressional District, John Fitzgerald — a candidate whose published opinions about Jews, Zionism and the Holocaust are virtually identical to those of Pittsburgh synagogue gunman Robert Bowers — secured 43,053 votes, 28.1 percent of the total, in his defeat to Democrat Marl DeSaulnier. A committed Holocaust denier and 9/11 conspiracy theorist, Fitzgerald’s campaigning tactics included robocalls to voters that urged an “end to the Jewish takeover of America.”

2018 is not the first time, of course, that white supremacist candidates have run in US elections. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, nine hopefuls with neo-Nazi platforms contested the 2010 elections, two of whom went on to win seats in their respective state assemblies. Among the more seasoned and well-known of the far-right candidates on the US election scene is former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who most recently contested a seat in the US Senate in 2016. Duke won election to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1989 with 51 percent of the vote, while his failed campaign to secure that state’s governorship in 1991 saw him garner nearly 700,000 votes — almost 40 percent of the ballots cast.

A major part of this ongoing challenge from the far right, Foxman observed, is what he called the historical “knowledge gap.”

“Aside from the issue of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, we need to remember that America sacrificed thousands of men and women in fighting Hitler and the Nazis,” Foxman said. “Ignorance of that is riling and distressing, and what it tells us is that we need to educate this country about the sacrifices we have made to defend democracy and freedom.”

An ADL study of the electoral performance of right-wing extremists in the midterms released on Wednesday concluded that a total of 1.8 million Americans voted for candidates who have expressed virulently racist, homophobic and anti-Muslim sentiments, as well as playing with traditionally antisemitic themes and language. “In races for the US Senate and US House, extremists pulled in, on average, 33% percent of the vote,” the ADL report noted, in a survey of far right candidates who stood for a range of posts up for grabs on Tuesday, including city mayors, state governors, and representatives to state legislatures, as well as the US Congress.

In his interview with The Algemeiner, Foxman also expressed concern about the indulgent attitude toward Louis Farrakhan — the viciously antisemitic leader of the Nation of Islam who compared Jews to “termites” just last month — shown by some Democrats in the African-American community. Two incumbent candidates who have expressed support for Farrakhan in the past claimed victory in Tuesday’s elections — Danny Davis in the Illinois 7th and André Carson in the Indiana 7th.

Back in March, after Farrakhan denounced “Satanic Jews” during a speech in Chicago, Davis refused to back down from his description of the Nation of Islam leader as an “outstanding human being,” or to condemn his antisemitism.

“That’s just one segment of what goes on in our world,” Davis said at the time. “The world is so much bigger than Farrakhan and the Jewish question and his position on that and so forth. For those heavy into it, that’s their thing, but it ain’t my thing.”

That comment resulted in a Chicago Tribune editorial accusing Davis of being “complicit in Farrakhan’s bigotry.”

For his part, Carson has steadfastly refused to classify Farrakhan’s antisemitic and anti-American rants as hate speech. In 2016, both Carson and Keith Ellison — the former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee who won election as Minnesota’s new attorney general on Tuesday — held a private meeting with Farrakhan at a hotel in Washington, DC. After the meeting, Carson refused to rule out further encounters with Farrakhan. He also lambasted the Republican Jewish Coalition for demanding his resignation from Congress, declaring: “That organization doesn’t have any credibility with me. I know they have a political agenda.”

Foxman expressed disappointment that “the fact that Farrakhan is such an outspoken black racist and antisemite does not impact enough on good people who care about the civil rights of African Americans.”

Foxman also stressed Farrakhan’s strongly anti-American credentials — on display in Tehran last weekend, when he reportedly led students at the University of Tehran in a chant of “Death to America!”

“He was in Iran, speaking with the enemies of America, embracing them, and calling the United States ‘Satan,'” Foxman said. “When will those associated with him condemn him, his words and his organization?”

A grave “double standard” remains in play with Farrakhan, Foxman argued.

“If these words came from the other side of the political spectrum, they would condemn it,” he said.

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