I gotta tell ya, given this perpetually expanding truth is stranger than fiction thing, I’m feeling more and more like Rod Serling every day (cue ‘The Twilight Zone’ music). But if the strange stories keep coming my way, then I’ll keep covering them, and this one’s a real doozy!
As 14th District Congresswoman Lauren Underwood and her posse were walking by the Kendall County Republican’s float prior to Sunday’s Oswego PrairieFest parade, one of the GOP float folks raised his arm in a Nazi salute and shouted “Sieg heil!”
Please take some time to truly take that in.
This individual felt comfortable enough to perpetrate what amounts to a hate crime against a sitting black Congresswoman in front of all the Kendall County Republican officials, all the GOP regulars, all of his friends, and anyone who happened to be watching a major County festival’s proceedings.
I could end this column right here because that last paragraph really says it all, but there are a few more things I’d like to point out.
In her Twitter condemnation of the act, Underwood said her district is “one that values civility and tolerance.” Hmmmmm! Perhaps we’re talking about a parallel universe here because to say that ain’t been my 14th District experience would be the most massive of understatements.
To their credit, former Kendall Republican Chairman, James Marter, and current Chairman, Joseph Gillespie, quickly posted a Facebook apology explaining this volunteer will no longer be affiliated with the party.
Though it was gracious of her to say so, Underwood advisor Ronnie Chao added, “This kind of hate speech is not what the Illinois 14th has ever been about.” Oh! I beg to differ! after 13 years of covering the Collar Counties, I can unequivocally tell you this is exactly what Kendall County and the Kendall County Republican Party are all about.
Please allow me to explain.
Despite being the fastest growing county in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009, it remains 84 percent white, and that kind of “demographic” takes a concerted latent effort. That Caucasian percentage is significantly more Caucasian than Will, Kane, Lake, and DuPage Counties. Only McHenry County is whiter, and they have the same problem – short of a Nazi salute, however.
So, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that, while those generally Republican Kane, Will, Lake, and particularly DuPage County voters destroyed Trump in 2016, Kendall County wholeheartedly supported a mendacious white supremacist sympathizer.
And the Kendall County GOP is even worse!
It starts with attorney Dallas Ingemunson and disgraced former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, forming what some people referred to as “The Combine” around the turn of the century. Basically, anyone with political aspirations in Kendall or the surrounding counties had to secure their “blessing” or electoral defeat would be swift and sure. This was particularly true of judicial candidates.
But if you weren’t white and male, no such benediction would be forthcoming. When a very young former Democratic State Rep Linda Chapa LaVia approached them to run as a Republican, Ingemunson told her to go back to Texas. ‘The Combine’ finally did “embrace” white women, but only when they could control the candidate. State Senator and Kane County Chairman Karen McConnaughay is a perfect example.
Though some things have changed, the current Kendall County Board is as white as it gets.
To add even more to the intolerance frivolity, in 2011 the Kendall County Republicans invited racist thug and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to headline their main fundraiser. That just screams “inclusion,” doesn’t it? Though you really do have to give them a lot credit for abandoning all pretense whatsoever.
The Combine had vastly faded by the time Hastert went to prison, but during their heyday, the eminently white Kendall County Sheriff’s Office was more than happy to “enforce” the status quo. I know of one counter-political operative who was regularly harassed and I met with a black deputy who resigned partly as a result of a “lack of acceptance” on the part of his peers.
He went to become a State Rep, too.
If you doubt me, I would encourage you to visit the Kendall County Republican’s Facebook page where all manner of racist propaganda is proudly on display, particularly in the associated photographs. Apparently, a Nazi salute is where they finally draw the line. Not to mention there isn’t a single minority depicted in the thousands of those photographs.
So, am I surprised a Kendall County Republican Party volunteer flashed a Nazi salute and shouted “Sieg heil” to a black Congresswoman from a GOP float before a Sunday parade at a busy festival? Not in the least! The only thing that surprises me is that it doesn’t happen more often.