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 »
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
2 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
1 days ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×