When the U.S. elected its first black president, Barack Obama, in 2008, some Americans naively claimed that the country had become “post-racial.” But while Obama’s victory over Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 and his reelection in 2012 were certainly historic, the U.S. has not overcome racism any more than it has overcome homophobia or sexism. The history of the U.S. shows that progress for women, people of color and the LGBT community is often met with an angry backlash—and in the Trump era, angry Republicans and angry white males haven’t been shy about expressing their anger.
Here are seven of the most ridiculous, bigoted and extreme Republicans who are running for office in 2018.
1. Scott Lively
Charlie Baker is a Republican governor in a Democrat-leaning New England state—Massachusetts—and he is being challenged in a gubernatorial GOP primary by one of the Christian Right’s most hateful anti-gay crusaders: Scott Lively. When it comes to demonizing gays, Lively could give the late Rev. Fred Phelps and the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church a run for their money. In the past, Lively equated gays with animals, claimed that gays were responsible for the Holocaust and described President Barack Obama as a “radical homosexualist.” But this year in Massachusetts, Lively has toned down his anti-gay rhetoric and asserted that he would rather focus on what he sees as Baker’s weaknesses as a governor—in Lively’s view, the right-wing Baker isn’t sufficiently supportive of President Trump and is falsely taking credit for the “economic miracle” the president has brought about. Lively recently declared, “I’m telling you, there is only one man in this nation that’s responsible for the economic miracle that we’ve experienced since the election of 2016. That’s our president, Donald Trump. You did not do that, Charlie Baker. That’s stolen valor.”
2. John Fitzgerald
In California, John Fitzgerald’s anti-Semitism is so ugly and over-the-top that on May 29, the California Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a joint statement urging voters to reject his bid for Congress. Fitzgerald, who is running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, is a Holocaust denier—and one of the stated goals of his campaign is “exposing the truth about the Holocaust and how it’s an absolute, fabricated lie.” When Fitzgerald learned that the California GOP was rejecting his candidacy, he responded that he wasn’t surprised because the GOP, like the Democratic Party, is controlled by “Jewish elitists.”
3. Arthur J. Jones
John Fitzgerald isn’t the only Holocaust denier who is running for a seat in the House of Representatives as a Republican. In Illinois, 70-year-old Arthur J. Jones (a white supremacist and ex-member of the American Nazi Party) is running against incumbent Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski in the state’s 3rd Congressional District. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has urged Illinois Republicans not to vote for Jones—asserting that there is “no room in our politics for a person like that”—and even the far-right Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has encouraged Illinois voters to “write in another candidate or vote for the Democrat” because “this bigoted fool should receive zero votes.”
4. Rep. Steve King
Iowa Rep. Steve King has never been shy about expressing his racism. In the past, King kept a Confederate flag on his desk, embraced the anti-Obama birther conspiracy (Obama, according to King, isn’t really a U.S. citizen), equated Mexicans with animals (King wanted an electric fence on the U.S./Mexico border because “we do that with livestock”) and advocated racial separatism on the grounds that “mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life, but a lower one.” But as much of an embarrassment as King is, Iowans keep reelecting him: King is serving his eighth term in Congress and is presently seeking a ninth. This year, King’s Democratic challenger is Sioux City resident J.D. Scholten, who has been receiving over three times as much in campaign contributions. And hopefully, Scholten will be the one who can finally rid Iowa of its worst congressman.
5. Paul Nehlen
In Wisconsin, Republican Paul Nehlen is running for the seat that House Speaker Paul Ryan—who is retiring from Congress—will be vacating. And while Nehlen, unlike Fitzgerald or Jones, isn’t an outright Holocaust denier, he is a white nationalist who uses the slogan “it’s OK to be white” and has a long history of anti-Semitic and anti-Islam comments. Nehlen once urged attorney Ari Cohn to convert to Christianity to “fill a Jesus-shaped hole” inside of him, has said that Jews are destined to “burn in hell” and was banned from Twitterfor posting so many racist and anti-Semitic comments. When Nehlen ran for Congress in Wisconsin in 2016, he was endorsed by Breitbart News. But his anti-Semitism is so offensive that even Breitbart News and Trump ally Steve Bannon have since distanced themselves from him.
6. Russell Walker
Russell Walker has become a major headache for the North Carolina GOP. Walker, who is running against Democratic incumbent Garland Pierce for a seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives as a Republican, is an avowed white supremacist—which, in Walker’s twisted mind, is a positive thing because God Himself is one. On his website, Walker posted, “What is wrong with being a white supremacist? God is a racist and a white supremacist.”
7. Seth Grossman
When Seth Grossman (a former city councilman in Atlantic City) challenged incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie in a gubernatorial GOP primary in New Jersey in 2013, he lost badly. Grossman’s anti-gay, anti-Islam rhetoric was so toxic that he received only 8% of the primary vote from New Jersey Republicans. And Grossman, who is running against Democrat Jeff Van Drew this year in New Jersey’s 2nd District for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, is no less of a bigot now. Grossman (who once advocated that gays be quarantined) has asserted that “Islam is a cancer” and has been quick to share anti-Islam posts from hateful neocon Islamophobes like Pamela Geller and Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer.