Asleep at the gate

THE Illinois Democratic ticket's predicament would be funny if it were not serious -- or should that be the other way around? Former Democratic Sen. Adlai Stevenson, who won the right to challenge again Republican Gov. James R. Thompson, finds his candidacy encumbered on the ticket by two supporters of Lyndon LaRouche -- Mark Fairchild, who won the Democratic slot for lieutenant governor, and Janice Hart, for secretary of state. Mr. LaRouche's followers are similarly seeking respectable political havens on the Democratic tickets in many other states and federal districts.

Where these ballot places are fairly won in primaries, the Democratic Party establishment essentially has itself to blame if it does not want the LaRouche minions in its midst. ``Fair'' can be disputed. Names like Fairchild and Hart may have a political advantage over ethnic names that end in vowels. But it is up to the party and its candidates to form the first line of defense against interlopers whose politics may be anathema to the party organization.

The LaRouche group is nowhere near the political mainstream. It is described by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith as ``a paranoid-style, anti-Semitic political cult'' -- ``which originally emerged in 1968 as a far-left organization with a Marxist ideology and has since lurched wildly to the right.'' LaRouche candidates oppose the Gramm-Rudman balanced-budget law and support President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Such topics may be appropriate enough, but the group's extremism of outlook, its tendency to see a host of conspirators behind public problems -- the International Monetary Fund behind the disease AIDS, for instance -- makes it repugnant to the establishment parties.

Mr. Stevenson is exploring his options to dislodge the LaRouchers from the ticket, run as an independent, or form a third party. None of the options are promising. The cost of a party's falling asleep at the primary gate can be high indeed.

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