Representative Steve King is a Virulent White Racist--Which Makes Him the Perfect Republican for the Era of Donald Trump
Rep. Steve King is who the Republican Party actually is in 2017. No additional reminder of its character should be necessary. Yet too many people rage at individuals, groups and a political party that are truly beneath condemnation.
On Sunday King — who has represented northwestern Iowa in Congress since 2003 — used Twitter to send out a message of support for right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders and his bid to become prime minister of the Netherlands.
On Monday morning King refused to back away from this statement in an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.” Host Chris Cuomo tried to draw him out: “Either a Muslim American, an Italian-American, an Irish-Scotch-German-American — which is what your roots are — either those are all equal things or they are not. What is your answer?” King paused and then said, “They contribute differently to our culture and civilization.”
This is not the first time King has trafficked in white supremacy. His portfolio of bigotry and racism includes claims that white people have “contributed more to civilization” and that others constitute some type of racial “subgroup.” Not surprisingly, he has also defended the American swastika, that is the Confederate battle flag.
King’s racist comments are also part of a much larger chorus of white supremacy that has recently swept across Europe in the form of far- right-wing political parties such as the National Front in France, Jobbik in Hungary and Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands. This racist nativism has now borne rotten fruit in the United States with the rise of the Donald Trump and the white nationalist and white supremacist movement known as the alt-right.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has joked about his support of the Ku Klux Klan and used a racial slur to describe an African-American attorney. He has actively worked to roll back the civil rights of people of color, women and LGBT people, and will surely not make protecting the civil rights of racial or other minority groups a priority for the Department of Justice.
Michael Anton, the online author also known as Decius — now a policy aide at the National Security Council — believes that immigration by nonwhites and such values as “diversity” and “multiculturalism” are existential threats to white society.
King’s racism and xenophobia are neither anathema or outliers relative to Republican voters. Social scientists have repeatedly shown how the election of Barack Obama resulted in racist backlash that helped to elect Donald Trump. As part of that dynamic, “old-fashioned racism” (which was thought to have been vanquished from the mainstream of American society) has returned with a vengeance and is now closely correlated with white voters’ support of the Republican Party. Other research has demonstrated that white Republicans, other conservatives and right-leaning independents are also hostile towards immigrants, believe that American should be a white Christian country and white people are somehow oppressed.
The right-wing media has also repeatedly circulated racism and nativism. Overt white supremacist sites such as Stormfront frequently feature themes about “white genocide.” More polite outlets like Fox News support similar themes as well, while urging their predominantly white and older viewers to “make more babies” to counter the demographic shifts taking place in the United States.
Few if any Republican elected officials or other elites will condemn Steve King and his comments. Why? They do not want to alienate their voters. Even if they wouldn’t use the same words, Republican leaders are also more likely than not to agree with King’s sentiments. Silence is complicity.
Over the weekend, Rep. King was one of the most popular topics on Twitter and other social media. This is to be expected given the incendiary nature of his comments. Such a reaction, however, is largely wasted energy. In the age of Donald Trump, it is important to manage one’s finite resources and to that end accept several basic truths.
As I have argued many times here and elsewhere, today’s Republican Party is the United States’ largest white identity organization. Conservatism and racism have been one and the same thing since the end of the civil rights movement. Donald Trump fits the definition of a racist and a fascist. To acknowledge the weight of these facts is not an act of surrender, but an acknowledgement of the realities of the political terrain. To feel surprised and upset at Steve King’s most recent white supremacist bloviating — or that of Trump and other Republicans and conservatives — is wholly understandable. But one cannot shame the devil.
Now is the time to take that energy and use it to support grassroots mobilization to protect the commons and civil society. Now is the time to vote Republicans out of office on the local and state level, to use the power of the dollar and political consumerism to effect positive political change, and to steel ourselves in other ways to fight against the fascist twilight that has befallen the United States.
Anything less will ensure Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s continued victory by ways both dishonorable and crooked. Unfortunately, in politics, winning is really all that matters. It is long past time that liberals, progressives and principled independents and conservatives who oppose Trump and the current Republican Party borrow from that lesson.