A fairly remarkable feature of the 2016 election is despite the chaos at the top of the ticket for both parties, only one Member of Congress has been defeated in a primary (and that’s because he was under federal indictment). That will change tonight, and North Carolina has at least one House seat where that will be the case.

In the first instance, that is due to redistricting, which has now put Congressman George Holding up against Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (and also former Senate candidate Greg Brannon, who has minimal chance of winning). Several national conservative groups have taken aim at Ellmers for her support of the Export-Import Bank. However, from my perspective it would be great to see her lose tonight because she is the only Member of Congress to have received Donald Trump’s endorsement. Trump eked out a primary win of Ted Cruz back in the day, and Trump did do fairly well in this district, so that may end up helping Ellmers out. His actual endorsement is as vague as you would expect, promising the usual list, and “so many other things.”

I really like this screenshot. It's very reminiscent of Carly Fiorina's Demon Sheep ad. Image via IndyWeek.
I really like this screenshot. It’s very reminiscent of Carly Fiorina’s Demon Sheep ad. Image via IndyWeek.

The second instance may have Congressman Walter Jones lose his primary to Taylor Griffin, who only lost to him by 5% in 2014. This race has baffled me for a while, because Jones has a record that most outside groups would normally instantly determine as being worthy of a primary. In 2014, I wrote that:


Taylor Griffin needs to win. Incumbent Congressman Walter Jones has an abysmal record on just about everything from Israel (one of only two Republicans to be endorsed by J-Street, the other one being Ed Whitfield of Kentucky) to Iran (voted against sanctions) to America’s role in the world (preaches American decline) to his voting record (most liberal Republican in congress) to just about anything else. He has tried to impeach both president Bush and Obama, said that Dick Cheney will join Lyndon Johnson in Hell, advises the Ron Paul Institute (look no further than here, here, and here to understand that this organization is as insane as its namesake suggests).

To sidetrack for a second, let’s look at just how insane the Ron Paul institute is. As always, Jamie Kirchick is worth quoting at length:

That honor [of the craziest member of its Board] likely belongs to the Dickensian-named John Laughland, a British writer who has never met a Central or Eastern European autocrat he didn’t like. A prominent defender of the late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Laughland penned a book on his Hague war-crimes trial titled Travesty (the “travesty” in question not being the Bosnian Serb genocide of Muslims, which Laughland denies ever took place, but the “kangaroo court” that brought Milosevic to justice and which Laughland blamed for his 2006 death). Laughland has also defended Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych (whose attempt to steal the 2004 election sparked that country’s peaceful Orange Revolution) and lamented the fate of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Europe’s last dictator, victim of “humiliating treatment” at the hands of a “propaganda campaign waged against” him “by the West.”

Animating Laughland’s defense of these loathsome individuals is his belief that “Washington is promoting a system of political and military control not unlike that once practiced by the Soviet Union.” But the common thread uniting these alleged victims of Western imperialism is their resistance to the democratizing, liberal reforms insisted upon by the U.S., the European Union, and NATO, not to mention their chumminess with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Laughland is joined in this venture by fellow Ron Paul Institute board member and Oxford historian Mark Almond. The two are trustees of a sinister and deceptively named organization, the British Helsinki Human Rights Group (BHHRG), which trades on the good name of the international civil liberties monitoring organizations founded as a result of the 1975 Helsinki accords.

The BHHRG was an early defender of Milosevic and Serbian behavior in the Balkans generally; Laughland has argued that it is NATO leaders, and not the wartime Serbian political and military leadership, who should be tried for war crimes. (Laughland has long claimed that reports of Serbian-created mass graves in Kosovo were either fabricated or exaggerated). Almond referred to Belarus’s 2006 presidential election as a “landslide” for Lukashenko, “demonized” because “after the death of Slobodan Milosevic, the West did not need to look far to find another bogeyman.” The election results were rejected by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; EU leaders deplored the farce as “a sad exception … on a continent of open and democratic societies.”

In addition, the BHHRG regularly advocates positions that regurgitate Russian nationalist talking points, minimize xenophobic and illiberal attitudes prevalent in the former Eastern bloc, or excuse authoritarian tendencies. Its website, for instance, claimsthat the Baltic republic of Latvia was “incorporated” into the Soviet Union, not violently invaded by Stalin (who sent over 100,000 Latvians to the gulag) and occupied for nearly half a century, all of which is a “myth.” Daniel McAdams, Paul’s erstwhile congressional foreign-policy adviser and the new executive director of his institute, who has “monitored” elections for the BHHRG, published an article for Rockwell’s website referring to Lukashenko’s “authoritarianism” in scare quotes.

Next on the list of Paul Institute board members are the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Most prominent among them is Judge Andrew Napolitano, a legal analyst for Fox News who has said that “It’s hard for me to believe that [7 World Trade Center] came down by itself” and that the 9/11 attacks “couldn’t possibly have been done the way the government told us.”

He is joined by Eric Margolis, who, despite an apparent lack of a Ph.D. or appointment at an institution of higher learning, is listed as a member of the organization’s “academic board.” Margolis says that “conclusive proof still lacks” connecting Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks and has speculated that the events could have been “a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up.”

Southwestern Law School professor Butler Shaffer, in an article for Rockwell’s site titled, “9/11 Was a Conspiracy,” asks, “In light of the lies, forgeries, cover-ups, and other deceptions leading to a ‘war’ in Iraq, how can any intellectually honest person categorically deny the possibility of the involvement of American political interests in 9/11?”

And what would an enterprise featuring Ron Paul be without a little Civil War revisionism? For that, there’s Walter Block, an anarcho-capitalist professor of economics and fellow at the Mises Institute. Like many in Rockwell’s neo-Confederate circle, Block believes that the wrong side won the “war against Southern succession” and blames most of America’s current problems on “the monster Lincoln.”

Also on Paul’s board are prominent former government officials who claim that American Jews constitute a “fifth column” aimed at subverting American foreign policy in the interests of Israel. Michael Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence officer, has used this precise phrase, alleging that a long list of individuals, organizations, and publications are “intent on involving 300 million Americans in other people’s religious wars.”

Of course, Griffin did not win in 2014, and that election was back when Palin had more credibility than she does now (although the fact that she backed Trump in her bizarre speech may also play well in North Carolina). However, it will be interesting to see if Griffin can pull off a win this cycle. There is a third candidate this time, who will probably perform better than the third candidate in 2014, but hopefully he won’t detract from Griffin’s performance too much.

We will see what happens tonight. Everyone will be looking at California’s Democratic primary results for good reason. I actually think that last night was the worst possible time for the AP to call the Democratic race for Hillary Clinton, because it has energized Bernie Sanders’s supporters in California at just the right time for them to turn out and vote, and Hillary supporters won’t feel nearly as likely to vote, since their race is called (even Trump’s supporters stopped turning out at the same levels after he won the Indiana primary–it’s only a natural decrease in turnout). However, it is definitely worth keeping an eye on what happens in North Carolina.

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