Kudos to Rolling Stone for this great piece:
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is a racist. Americans were reminded of this last week when the congressman told the New York Times that he doesn’t understand what’s so offensive about valuing one race above others. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
King tried to walk back the comments, both through a statement posted to Twitter and then in an impassioned speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, in which he essentially implored colleagues to pretend he didn’t say what he said, and to ignore the unmistakably racist comments he’s made in the past. “Today the New York Times is suggesting that I am an advocate for white nationalism and white supremacy,” King said. “I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology they define.” He went on to note that the people who know him know can vouch for him, as he’s “lived in the same place since 1978.”
The fallout proceeded as expected, with a cavalcade of Republicans issuing statements condemning the comments, but not King’s presence in Congress. “I find it offensive to claim white supremacy,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told reporters. “I will condemn it.” Fellow Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst felt similarly. “I condemn Rep. Steve King’s comments on white supremacy; they are offensive and racist – and not representative of our state of Iowa,” she tweeted. “We are a great nation and this divisiveness is hurting everyone. We cannot continue down this path if we want to continue to be a great nation.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), a person of color, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he tried to explain that “silence when things like this are said” are why Republicans are so often accused of racism. At no point did he suggest that King should not be a member of Congress. He even concluded by writing that he hopes King, a hardened racist who is 69 years old, takes the “opportunity to join us” in rebuilding the party’s image.
Republicans are hard-wired to furrow their brows and speak solemnly about the ills of racism, but they short circuit as soon as they’re asked — if they’re asked — what they’re going to do about it, and whether someone as transparently racist as King should be in Congress. (Rolling Stone reached out to Grassley, Ernst and King asking whether they believe King should continue to serve in Congress in light of his recent remarks, but received no response.)
His words will be condemned as if they’re some sort of unfortunate slip-up rather than a clear, intractable indication of the character of one of their colleagues.
Gee, it sure did take Ernst a while to finally speak out against her white supremacist colleague. Even though her fellow House Republicans started to distance themselves from King last year:
On Oct. 30, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that in response to King’s statements, the committee was withdrawing its support for his reelection.
Ernst, who endorsed King for reelection in 2018, continued to stand by King. She stood next to King, literally, on the day before the November general election, when Ernst and King were featured speakers at a get-out-the-vote rally for Republican candidates at the Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City.
Ernst called it “an honor and privilege” to introduce King, when it was his turn to speak. She smiled broadly as King recounted meeting Ernst for the first time, when she was deployed in Kuwait with the Iowa National Guard in 2003.
“We’ve been together almost every step of the way” since then, King told the crowd.
Ernst has cautiously sought to separate herself from King since his election victory last year. Following State Sen. Randy Feenstra’s announcement on Jan. 9 that he will challenge King in the 2020 Republican primary, Ernst said she would remain neutral in the primary. Ernst is also up for reelection in 2020.
On Jan. 10, the former mayor of Irwin, Iowa, Bret Richards, announced his intention to run against King in the next Republican primary. “I know I won’t embarrass the state,” Richards told the Des Moines Register, when asked about King’s white nationalist rhetoric.
And like Governor Kim Reynolds (R. IA), Ernst relies on King’s white supremacist support to win re-election:
But it’s only now that many of the Republicans who are excoriating King have stopped praising him. Consider Joni Ernst, who in 2016 went out of her way to praise him when he drew a Republican primary opponent:
Ernst’s senior colleague Chuck Grassley and current Iowa governor Kim Reynolds also came to the nativist’s aid when he faced intraparty opposition.
You can almost understand Ernst’s support for King — you know, two whole years before she apparently paid any attention to the implications of his words. He was the odds-on favorite among Iowa Republicans to win the 2014 Senate nomination that ultimately went to Ernst when he demurred.
So let’s don’t accept the idea that King was some sort of grudgingly tolerated wild man whom Republicans decided to smack down when his outspokenness got out of hand. They knew who he was, and many of them were happy to promote his obnoxious career until it began to cast an unforgiving light on themselves and their leader in the White House.
The Blue Wave hit Iowa hard last year making King the only House Republican from Iowa. King almost lost his red district last year and we not only need to punish him at the polls, but we also need to punish Ernst for standing by him. Who knows if Iowa will still stand with Trump at the polls but Ernst will be a top target for us to take back the Senate. It remains to be seen which Democrat jumps in to defeat her. Stay tuned.