Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner tied his tongue in knots when asked whether voters should back a Democrat over a literal Nazi running for Congress in his state.
Republicans were humiliated when they allowed Arthur Jones, a prominent Holocaust denier and former leader of the American Nazi Party, to win the GOP nomination in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District.
But Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has somehow found a way to make the situation even worse for his party — by refusing to urge voters to choose the Democratic candidate over a literal Nazi.
“No,” Rauner said when asked by reporters if he would endorse incumbent Democrat Dan Lipinski over Jones in the general election. “The one thing I will say is the person, that guy, Johnson or whatever his name is, should not be on the ballot.”
Rauner’s refusal makes no sense. Even for a Republican, this should not be a tough call. Jones has received broad condemnation from the Republican Party — including from Rauner himself, who said in February, “There is no room for Neo-Nazis in American politics.”
Rauner’s move doesn’t even make sense in terms of partisan politics. This Chicago House district is not competitive, and Lipinski is a conservative Democrat who sides with the GOP on abortion and votes with Trump nearly 40 percent of the time.
Even Ted Cruz, one of the most shameless GOP partisans in office, urged Illinois voters to choose the Democrat in this race rather than back a Nazi. Apparently, Rauner is not even capable of meeting this low bar.
But dithering in the face of obvious racism is nothing new for Rauner.
Last year, he said it was “not [his] place” to criticize a racist cartoon of an African-American school kid, which was put out by a conservative think tank that Rauner relied on to fill key staff positions.
This year, during a radio interview on Martin Luther King Day, Rauner did not answer a question about whether Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was a racist. It took until the next day for Rauner to confirm through a spokesperson that he did believe Duke was a racist.
And in February, Rauner awkwardly drank a glass of chocolate milk as a public demonstration of his commitment to diversity.
Rauner barely won his own primary, and organized labor in Illinois is mobilizing to punish him for his role in helping the Supreme Court weaken public sector unions. A recent poll shows Rauner trailing Democratic hotel heir J. B. Pritzker by 9 points.
A governor in such a precarious position should at least know to take a clear stand against hate. Rauner has failed to do so — and it could cost him.