New year, same old Steve King.
America’s most racist Congressman made headlines yesterday by asking in a New York Times interview when racism became unacceptable: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
The whole world shook our heads, as we did when King said that Dreamers have “calves the size of cantaloupes”, when he said that “we can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies”, and when he appeared to refer to Mexicans as “dirt”.
But this time, for the first time, Republican leadership and commentators joined in condemning King.
“Steve’s language is reckless, wrong and has no place in our society,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said. “Everything about white supremacy and white nationalism goes against who we are as a nation.”
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said it was “offensive to try to legitimize those terms.”
Of note, just a couple months ago, Popular Information reported that these two GOP House leaders were actively supporting King’s reelection, “King has also received contributions from the PACs of two members of the House Republican leadership, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) wrote a Washington Post op-ed condemning Republicans for staying silent on King, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro turned against him, and the conservative National Review published an editorial simply titled, “Dump Steve King.”
Democrats aren’t letting King get away his continued racism, either. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is reportedly calling on House leadership to formally censure King, a vote that could be passed with a simple majority. Other Democrats and Republicans have blasted King on the issue.
But the most long-term threat to King may be the fact that he now has a primary challenger. This week, Iowa State Sen. Randy Feenstra, a Republican, announced that he will be campaigning for King’s seat. The Club for Growth, a longtime King ally, has declined to say whether it will be backing King over his challenger, Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) says she will not endorse him, and Iowa’s senior Senator, Chuck Grassley, has announced that he’ll be staying out of the primary.
If the tide is truly turning against Steve King — if Republicans, at long last, are finally indicating that they are done with King’s flagrant racism — the change is due to a variety of factors. The Washington Post today published a whole list of them, including:
- Steve King looks weaker than ever before. He won his 2018 reelection by three percentage points, his smallest margin ever as a member of Congress.
- King faces a credible primary challenger with Feenstra
- Republicans reprimanding King strongly now might dissuade him from seeking another term
- Iowa will be a 2020 battleground state and King will be a distraction
- King has sway over Republican grassroots activists — but if Trump is running for reelection in 2020, the Party doesn’t need to be concerned about the energy of the base
- Possible censure from House Democrats
- Corporate and high-dollar donors have turned against King
- Conservative thought leaders are done with King
All these reasons may help to explain why King, for the first time, bothered to appear apologetic. In an interview with NBC News, King said, “I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It’s not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology.” Which is a very different tune than controversies in the past where King has only doubled down when called out.
Of course, it’s important to note that the reason why Republicans seem ready to bury King is not because he says things that are antithetical to their beliefs, but because he says things that uncomfortably underscore them. Steve King gets in trouble for saying out loud the things that the Party quietly practices. Let’s not forget that Republicans during the 2018 midterms ran on a whole racist and anti-immigrant platform directed by GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump. Extremism and white nationalism are the currency of today’s GOP, and while Republicans should denounce Steve King for his abhorrent beliefs and comments, we know that the Party as a whole is no better.