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.

MOST READ
What We're Following See More »
FIRST WOMAN NOMINATED BY MAJOR PARTY
Hillary Clinton Accepts the Democratic Nomination for President
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"It is with humility, determination, and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for president," said Hillary Clinton in becoming the first woman to accept a nomination for president from a major party. Clinton gave a wide-ranging address, both criticizing Donald Trump and speaking of what she has done in the past and hopes to do in the future. "He's taken the Republican party a long way, from morning in America to midnight in America," Clinton said of Trump. However, most of her speech focused instead on the work she has done and the work she hopes to do as president. "I will be a president of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving, the successful," she said. "For those who vote for me and for those who don't. For all Americans together."

COUNTER-CHANTS AT THE READY
Protesters Make Good on Threat to Disrupt Speech
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Supporters of Bernie Sanders promised to walk out, turn their backs, or disrupt Hillary Clinton's speech tonight, and they made good immediately, with an outburst almost as soon as Clinton began her speech. But her supporters, armed with a handy counter-chant cheat sheet distributed by the campaign, immediately began drowning them out with chants of "Hillary, Hillary!"

SUFFOLK POLL
New Survey Shows Clinton Up 9 in Pennsylvania
12 hours ago
THE LATEST

If a new poll is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. A new Suffolk University survey shows her ahead of Donald Trump, 50%-41%. In a four-way race, she maintains her nine-point lead, 46%-37%. "Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race."

Source:
THREE NIGHTS RUNNING
Democrats Beat Republicans in Convention Ratings So Far
12 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Wednesday was the third night in a row that the Democratic convention enjoyed a ratings win over the Republican convention last week. Which might have prompted a fundraising email from Donald Trump exhorting supporters not to watch. "Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight," the email read. "Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks."

Source:
SHIFT FROM ROMNEY’S NUMBERS
Catholics, Highly Educated Moving Toward Dems
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

Catholics who attend mass at least weekly have increased their support of the Democratic nominee by 22 points, relative to 2012, when devout Catholics backed Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, a Morning Consult poll shows that those voters with advanced degrees prefer Hillary Clinton, 51%-34%. Which, we suppose, makes the ideal Clinton voter a Catholic with a PhD in divinity.

×