Trump isn't (primarily) to blame for Arthur Jones, the GOP's Illinois Nazi

Trump isn't (primarily) to blame for Arthur Jones, the GOP's Illinois Nazi

The anti-Trump knee-jerk takeaway from the Arthur Jones story is that this is what happens when Donnie makes excuses for white supremacists, says Nazi marchers include "good people" and wonders why we have to accept immigrants from shit-hole countries.

There's some validity to that reaction. Over the past few years - through Donnie's campaign and his first year occupying the White House - we've seen how bigots of all different stripes have become emboldened. No more hoods, much less use of "dog whistle" words and phrases, and the emergence of candidates like Arthur Jones.

That's the easy response - too easy, because there's a bigger problem. It's a significant reason for the extreme partisanship in Congress, State Houses, and local governmental bodies. And it's more to blame than Trump for the candidacy of Arthur Jones.

That problem is partisan gerrymandering.

As Randy Blaser writes for Pioneer Press:

First, it leads to one-party rule. The 3rd District has been in the hands of the Democratic Party literally for generations. Democrats win so often in this district, Republicans don't even bother to put up candidates any more.

Take a look at the most recent election in the 3rd District, in 2016. In that election, incumbent Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski won with 100 percent of the vote. No Republican candidate was slated against him. A woman named Diane Harris got a few write-in votes.

So when no Republican in their right mind would run in this race, you get someone like Arthur Jones.

While Blaser is writing about a "safe" seat for Democrats, there are similarly safe seats held by Republicans. There are plenty of stories about how gerrymandering distorts our democracy. Admittedly, I take the Democratic perspective in this post. But I have no doubt there are cases where Dems similarly benefit from their own gerrymandering.

In 2012, 51% of voters in Pennsylvania chose Democratic candidates - but the Congressional delegation is 72% Republican.  North Carolina's state-wide votes have been split almost 50-50 but 10 of their 13 Congressional seats are held by Republicans.

These are two particularly egregious examples - and Republicans have been much better playing the long game that got us to this point. I say that more out of frustration with the Democratic Party that I generally support than to make any claim of unfairness. After all, this has all been done according to the current rules.

The fact that Nazi Arthur Jones will be the Republican candidate in the 3rd district of Illinois is just the latest example of why we've got to change those rules. By now, every Republican in Illinois has condemned Jones, but we shouldn't have districts so safe that one party decides not to run a candidate.

There are encouraging signs. A Federal panel recently struck down partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina, and the US Supreme Court recently refused to block a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order that the legislature draw new districts.

Sadly, in the latter case, Pennsylvania lawmakers want to impeach state Supreme Court Justices rather than comply with the law.

The US Supreme Court heard arguments last fall in a gerrymandering case brought by Wisconsin Democrats, and have taken up a second case brought by Maryland Republicans.

Historically, the Court has ruled against racial gerrymandering while accepting that drawing districts for partisan gain is just politics. But technology has made it possible to virtually guarantee a generational advantage to one party. Perhaps that is why the Court is now taking up partisan gerrymandering.

Hopefully, they'll rule against it, so that neither party will be put in a position of having a Nazi represent them on the ballot.

It's easy to blame Trump's enabling of bigots for the candidacy of Arthur Jones. But if we don't address the bigger problem of gerrymandered "safe" districts, fringe candidates may become more common in general elections. The 3rd District of Illinois could be the harbinger of things to come - unless our courts and elected officials act to restore competitive elections everywhere.

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