GOP Doing Something About Nazi Rep. Steve King? That Can't Be Right!
Republican Congressman Steve King will now have a lot more free time at work. GOP leadership kicked King off of all his committees after growing backlash from the racist drivel he told the New York Times last week.
There's been blood in the water for days. Democrats Bobby L. Rush and Tim Ryan each filed resolutions to censure King, and even Republicans are abandoning him. Mitch McConnell says King should "find another line of work." Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both said he should resign. They have a point. King's constituents do deserve a representative who can actually do something for them beyond increase local tourism from Klan rallies. However, the majority did knowingly elect a racist nine times, so it's hard to resist saying to hell with them.
King is not taking this with the class you've come to expect from your finer Nazi sympathizers. He called out House Minority Leader (that's the GOP now!!) Kevin McCarthy on Twitter yesterday.
No one has attacked King's right to free expression, but at long last, there are actual consequences to expressing himself in Nazi with racist subtitles. King tries to explain that this was all a politically motivated misunderstanding.
In a 56 minute interview, we discussed the changing use of language in political discourse. We discussed the worn out label "racist" and my observation that other slanderous labels have been increasingly assigned to Conservatives by the Left, who injected into our current political dialog such terms as Nazi, Fascist, 'White Nationalist, White Supremacist,— Western Civilization, how did THAT language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?'...just to watch Western Civilization become a derogatory term in political discourse today. Clearly, I was only referencing Western Civilization classes. No one ever sat in a class listening to the merits of white nationalism and white supremacy
No, it wasn't clear. Everyone thinks he's a Nazi. Either King can't communicate worth a damn or he communicates racist sentiment clear as the crystal the White House uses to serve Big Macs. King accepts no accountability for his history of racist comments and actions. His assertion that the Left "injected" terms such as "nazi, fascist, white nationalist, and white supremacist" into current political dialogue is like claiming doctors injected "lung cancer" into the medical lexicon to hurt the tobacco industry. Where there's smoke, there's racists. King is one, and it's not good for Republicans, who just got pile-drived in November's midterms. If 2018 proved a suburban bloodbath for the GOP, 2020 will just get worse if their members are giving "Mein Kampf" interviews for the Times. White moderates find it socially awkward to make common cause with racists. They require some plausible deniability for cocktail parties. They don't even have con man posing as "policy wonk" Paul Ryan selling granny-killing snake oil.
King is right that the GOP's motives are political and that Republicans ignored his racism for years. King introduced an amendment to prevent abolitionist Harriet Tubman's image from replacing the slavery supporter currently on the $20. He thought it was "racist" to take the bold political position that slave freeing is preferable to slave owning. He also once displayed a Confederate flag on his desk when Iowa was never even a Confederate state. He also predicted that blacks and Latinos would annihilate each other as our numbers grew. This was all in the past couple years. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst still endorsed him. He was even co-chair on Iowa Governor Kim Reynold's 2018 campaign. She claimed, "I can't be held responsible for everyone's comments." They all knew what King was and they didn't care.
Now, however, King is a visible and easily disposable sacrifice in the ongoing culture war the GOP has waged ever since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The dog whistles were mostly a siren song to the white working class to distract them as Republicans picked their pockets. There were multiple arrangements of the same melody — welfare queens, Willie Horton, Hillary "Voodoo Priestess" Clinton, marriage equality, birtherism. The "good" Republicans looked the other way, profited politically from it, and pretended they were above it all. It helped them sleep at night. Before they knew it, the rot of cultural resentment spread through the country thanks to right-wing media and metastasized in the White House. It's no longer a means to a Randian end, it's the whole point.
Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are fairly open white supremacists with major platforms. Advertisers have ditched both for their racist views, but Fox News stands by them and pays them millions. Unlike King, Carlson and Ingraham are both clever and disingenuous enough to reject the terms "white supremacy" and "white nationalism" while still promoting the views associated with them. It's like what Al Bundy once said on "Married ... with Children": "I'm not sexist. I'm just saying women don't know nothing." Carlson and Ingraham deny they're racists and take wounded umbrage when name-calling liberals dare call them out as such. They're just stating facts. Immigrants make America dirtier (this is literally Nazi propaganda). Demographic changes are ruining America.
King represents modern conservatism more than the Republican establishment would like to admit. But we can overlook their almost laughable hypocrisy if it means at least one racists's influence has been neutralized.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.