The Republican Party Can’t Escape the Fringe

A congressional candidate in Illinois is doing everything the party desperately wants to stop.

Jim Griffin, dressed as Capt. America, holds a large American flag while participating in a Tea Party rally at the U.S. Capitol, June 19, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Matt Berman
See more stories about...
Matt Berman
March 21, 2014, 1 a.m.

After a tight primary this week, the Illinois Re­pub­lic­an Party has its can­did­ate in the House race against Demo­crat­ic Rep. Jan Schakowsky. And the party is really, really not happy about that.

“We called on her to drop out of the race in Janu­ary,” a spokes­man for the state party tells Na­tion­al Journ­al. “We hope that she still does drop out of the race.”

Why all the dis­tan­cing? Meet the can­did­ate: Susanne Atanus, a politi­cian who makes Todd Akin look like Fred Ro­gers.

Back in Janu­ary, Atanus, who lost the GOP primary for the same seat in 2010 and 2012, told the ed­it­or­i­al board of Chica­go’s Daily Her­ald she be­lieves that God is pun­ish­ing the United States for same-sex mar­riage.

“God is angry. We are pro­vok­ing him with abor­tions and same-sex mar­riage and civil uni­ons,” she said. “Same-sex activ­ity is go­ing to in­crease AIDS. If it’s in our mil­it­ary it will weak­en our mil­it­ary. We need to re­spect God.”

God’s wrath doesn’t stop with the mil­it­ary and AIDS. Ac­cord­ing to Atanus, God’s an­ger has also res­ul­ted in tor­nadoes, aut­ism, and de­men­tia. “Abor­tions should not be used for birth con­trol,” she ad­ded.

Those com­ments drew quick con­dem­na­tion from the state’s Re­pub­lic­an Party. “Her can­did­acy is neither sup­por­ted nor en­dorsed by the lead­ers of our party, and she should with­draw from the race im­me­di­ately,” Jack Dor­gan, chair­man of the Illinois Re­pub­lic­an Party, said in Janu­ary. The head of Chica­go’s Re­pub­lic­an Party went fur­ther: “Atanus is not in any way af­fil­i­ated with any of our ef­forts in the Chica­go GOP, nor have we ever sup­por­ted, en­dorsed, or as­sisted her in any way at any time.”

Atanus stood by the state­ments. “I can’t turn my eye and look the oth­er way when I know that abor­tions, gay rights, and civil uni­ons are mak­ing God very angry,” she said in Janu­ary. “I don’t know why [state party of­fi­cials] are not stand­ing be­hind me.”

Aside from so­cial is­sues, Atanus’ primary cam­paign was fo­cused on an eco­nom­ic mes­sage that ad­voc­ated for elim­in­at­ing the U.S. stock ex­changes. Her ideas, in short, are very far re­moved from what the es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­an Party is or wants to be. So how’d she ac­tu­ally win the primary Tues­day with no sup­port from the party? Her Re­pub­lic­an primary op­pon­ent, Dav­id Wil­li­ams III, sus­pects Demo­crat­ic med­dling. “I do be­lieve @jan­schakowsky is ter­ri­fied of a Black Re­pub­lic­an,” Wil­li­ams, who is a Black Re­pub­lic­an, tweeted Wed­nes­day. “So send­ing your sup­port­ers to vote for my primary op­pon­ent won’t work.”

Whatever the cause, Re­pub­lic­ans are now in a place they had hoped to es­cape. Es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans have been des­per­ately try­ing to avoid a re­peat of Akin, the 2012 Mis­souri Sen­ate can­did­ate who set off a polit­ic­al hor­ror cir­cus when he tried to elab­or­ate on dif­fer­ent kinds of rape. In what is ex­pec­ted to be a good elec­tion year for Re­pub­lic­ans, a highly vis­ible polit­ic­al can­did­ate es­pous­ing Akini­an views could badly dam­age the party’s ef­forts to ex­pand its ranks.

It’s highly un­likely that Atanus will de­feat Schakowsky in the Illinois House race this year. The dis­trict, says the Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port, is solidly Demo­crat­ic; Pres­id­ent Obama won 65 per­cent of the vote there in 2012. No Re­pub­lic­an stood a chance at tak­ing the seat this year.

But just be­cause Atanus won’t likely win doesn’t mean she isn’t cap­able of cre­at­ing a few head­aches for the GOP. Sev­er­al na­tion­al news or­gan­iz­a­tions are already giv­ing Atanus the kind of at­ten­tion a likely doomed House can­did­ate rarely re­ceives.

It’s safe to as­sume the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee won’t go any­where near Atanus this year. But when the party is try­ing to build a big­ger base ahead of 2016, hav­ing a fringey re­mind­er of 2012 hanging around doesn’t help.

What We're Following See More »
‘PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE’
Priebus Asks Party to Unite Behind Trump
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
FEELING THE MIDWESTERN BERN
Sanders Upsets Clinton in Indiana
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Despite trailing Hillary Clinton by a significant margin, Bernie Sanders wasn't going the way of Ted Cruz tonight. The Vermont senator upset Clinton in Indiana, with MSNBC calling the race at 9pm. Sanders appears poised to win by a five- or six-point spread.

Source:
TRUMP IS PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE
Ted Cruz Bows Out, Effectively Ceding the Contest to Trump
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

And just like that, it's over. Ted Cruz will suspend his presidential campaign after losing badly to Donald Trump in Indiana tonight. "While Cruz had always hedged when asked whether he would quit if he lost Indiana; his campaign had laid a huge bet on the state." John Kasich's campaign has pledged to carry on. “From the beginning, I’ve said that I would continue on as long as there was a viable path to victory,” said Cruz. “Tonight, I’m sorry to say it appears that path has been foreclosed."

Source:
TAKES AT LEAST 45 DELEGATES
Trump Wins Indiana, All but Seals the Nomination
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Republican establishment's last remaining hope—a contested convention this summer—may have just ended in Indiana, as Donald Trump won a decisive victory over Ted Cruz. Nothing Cruz seemed to have in his corner seemed to help—not a presumptive VP pick in Carly Fiorina, not a midwestern state where he's done well in the past, and not the state's legions of conservatives. Though Trump "won't secure the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally claim the nomination until June, his Indiana triumph makes it almost impossible to stop him. Following his decisive wins in New York and other East Coast states, the Indiana victory could put Trump within 200 delegates of the magic number he needs to clinch the nomination." Cruz, meanwhile, "now faces the agonizing choice of whether to remain in the race, with his attempt to force the party into a contested convention in tatters, or to bow out and cede the party nomination to his political nemesis." The Associated Press, which called the race at 7pm, predicts Trump will win at least 45 delegates.

Source:
THE QUESTION
What’s the Average Household Income of a Trump Voter?
16 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Seventy-two thousand dollars, according to FiveThirtyEight. That's higher than the national average, as well as the average Clinton or Sanders voter, but lower than the average Kasich voter.

Source:
×