A question about last week’s election is impossible to answer, but it should spark discussions about voters in Chicago’s southwest neighborhoods and suburbs.
The question is, how many of the 57,298 people who voted for Republican Arthur Jones in the 3rd District congressional race knew about his anti-Semitic and segregationist beliefs and voted for him anyway?
Jones told me Tuesday he believes 100 percent of the people who voted for him knew about his views. Local and national media extensively covered his candidacy, he said.
“They knew who I was,” he said. “It took some thinking on their part to vote for me.”
Jones received 26 percent of the vote. Incumbent Democrat Dan Lipinski received 160,501 votes, according to unofficial results retrieved Tuesday from websites for the district’s four election authorities. On Nov. 20, county clerks will canvass results, which must be certified by Nov. 27.
Surely, a number of people who voted for Jones knew that Republican Party leaders, anti-hate groups and others had denounced his candidacy because of his past affiliations with Nazi organizations, among other reasons.
Others, no doubt, unwittingly cast their ballots merely because Jones was the Republican candidate. In an increasingly partisan climate, the “R” or “D” attached to a candidate’s name seems to matter more than an individual’s position on various issues.
Now, a week after the midterm election, the Southland is faced with two disturbing possibilities. One is that tens of thousands of voters represent an electorate that is woefully uninformed. The other is that tens of thousands of people voted for a candidate who campaigned on extreme views.
“I’m an honest man,” Jones said. “I spoke my mind on issues and voters appreciated my candor.”
“The degree to which people are willing to express distasteful and previously taboo views is something we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Stephen Maynard Caliendo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science at North Central College in Naperville.
Reasons why people voted for Jones may be more nuanced than a simple binary choice, Caliendo said. Some may have voted for anyone but the Democrat. Others may have protested frustration over gerrymandering or other factors that stifle competition in a district that Lipinski was heavily favored to win.
“It might be, ‘It’s a toss-away vote,’” Caliendo said. “It wasn’t a legitimate contest to begin with.”
Protest voters had options other than voting for Jones. Three candidates registered as write-ins: Justin Hanson, Richard Mayers and Kenneth Yerkes.
Jones received 34,670 votes in suburban Cook County, 11,576 votes in Will County, 10,876 votes in the city of Chicago and 176 votes in DuPage County.
Jones won four precincts in the district: Precinct 5 in northeast Lockport Township and Precincts 1, 12 and 17 in Homer Township. The largest margin of those was in Homer 17, where Jones outpolled Lipinski 456-401.
“Most of the people in Homer Glen are not racists or bigots,” said Steve Balich, a Republican Will County Board member who represents Homer Glen. “They may have voted for Jones because they didn’t know better.”
Balich said he and other Republicans told people to not for Jones. Educated voters would know Lipinski is a social conservative who reflects the views of many Homer Township residents, he added. Others may be unfamiliar with the congressman who has represented the district since 2005.
“Some people associate the Democratic Party with socialism — that’s the perception,” he said. “When the ballot says, ‘vote for one,’ you have a choice between a Nazi and a socialist.”
There is evidence that some towns in the district have historically embraced policies that favor segregated housing. John Petruszak, executive director of Homewood-based South Suburban Housing Center, presented research at a White House conference on housing in 2012.
“The 23 communities directly west of the south suburbs is an area of suburban Cook County generally known as the ‘southwest suburbs,’” Petruszak wrote in a research paper. “These communities have been traditionally perceived to be ‘closed’ by African-Americans, who comprised at the 2010 census only 6 percent (26,251) of the total 437,510 municipal inhabitants.”
It can be painful and disturbing to think that tens of thousands of 3rd District residents voted for Jones because of his views about African-Americans, Jews and others.
“It hurt me,” Elaine Savage, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of the Palos Orland Area, said of the vote total for Jones. “It strikes the League of Women Voters very much because we’re out there trying to inform people.”
It may be more comforting to believe voters just didn’t know any better than to consider the possibility that large numbers of neighbors would support views expressed by Jones.
“I want to believe that people are uninformed,” she said.
In Chicago, Jones pulled in nearly 25 percent of the 19th Ward vote that includes parts of Mount Greenwood and Beverly. The precinct with the highest vote percentage for Jones was the 21st, with 38 percent. Still, the 12,154 votes cast for Lipinski in the ward dwarfed the 3,908 votes cast for Jones.
Researchers pointed out that Jones underperformed some of Lipinski’s other recent Republican opponents. Lipinski was unopposed in 2016. The 25 percent of the vote for Jones compares to Republican tallies of 35.4 percent in 2014 and 31.5 percent in 2012.
“Looking back at the history of this district, I think people who knew about Jones stayed home,” said David Faris, assistant professor of political science at Roosevelt University in Chicago. “I think Jones lost about 10 percent of the Republican vote.”
The problem, Faris and others said, is that the 3rd District and many others are viewed as noncompetitive because political parties too often build in unfair advantages during the redistricting process.
“This would be much more disturbing if this was a competitive race,” Faris said. “It’s such a foregone conclusion” that a Democrat will win the district, he said.
Region: South Suburbs,Opinion
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November 13, 2018 at 06:27PM