It appears the GOP finally might have had enough of Rep. Steve King (R-IA). The lawmaker recently made some questionable comments about white supremacy in an interview with The New York Times, and many on the right have grown weary of his tendency to give the left the ammunition it needs to paint the conservative movement as bigoted.
Predictably, his statements inspired a cacophony of criticism from both the left and the right. This is not the first time the lawmaker has made racially charged remarks, but it seems that this latest controversy is the final straw.
Steve King’s Remarks on White Supremacy
The New York Times published an interview with King in which he discussed issues about illegal immigration and Western civilization. During the interview, he brought up “the culture of America” that is based on values contributed by European whites.
Then, he mentioned the concept of white supremacy: “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?”
Shortly after the piece was published, an outpouring of scathing criticism was directed at the King from both Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) posted a tweet: “These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) responded to King’s comments in an op-ed for The Washington Post in which he said that King’s comments “damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole.”
Scott also asserted that “King’s comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible.”
Later, the representative posted a statement on Twitter disavowing white supremacy, claiming that the fact that he is “an advocate for Western Civilization values” does not indicate that he accepts the “evil ideology” of white supremacy.
Other public figures have made similar blunders or expressed views not in line with American values. Many on the far left seize on these missteps and use them as political weapons while the rest of the country accepts the apology and moves on. Unfortunately, in the case of King, this is not his first rodeo.
Steve King’s History
King has a history of making controversial moves when it comes to race. In 2013, when discussing DACA recipients, he said: “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds, and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Of course, the reality is that the majority of immigrants — legal and illegal — are not drug traffickers, and characterizing them as such caused many to accuse him of racism.
Last year, he met with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, a group founded by a former Nazi SS officer. The party’s current leader was also involved with the neo-Nazi movement in Europe. “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” King said in an interview with The Washington Post.
King also made the puzzling decision to endorse Faith Goldy for mayor of Toronto, Canada. Goldy is known to be a far-right white nationalist with ties to several notable white supremacists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor.
Is This the End for King?
The backlash against King’s recent comments seems to be far stronger than previously. In the past, the GOP took a soft approach to his rhetoric and actions, at times even defending them. In his op-ed, Scott pointed out, “Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said.”
He’s right. The failure of the Republican Party to take harsher action against King has made it easier for the left to paint Republicans as bigots or at least people who are comfortable with bigotry. Now, it appears that King may have worn out his welcome.
Several high-profile Republicans have denounced King and have encouraged conservatives to support his primary candidate in his next election. Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro announced that he had given the maximum allowable donation to a GOP candidate who plans to oppose King’s nomination and has also called for King to be censured.
His history of offensive comments…has contributed to his fall.
The lawmaker also has lost support from one of his longtime backers: Club for Growth, an anti-tax group that previously gave money to his campaigns. While it has not stated that it will back his primary candidate, it seems to be open to the idea. According to Rachael Slobodien, the organization’s spokesperson: “It’s fair to say we are certainly watching this race closely due to King’s declining score on our scorecard.”
King won his last election with 50.4% of the vote, which is much lower than his previous races. It is clear that his popularity is decreasing. His history of offensive comments certainly is not the only reason for this downturn, but there is no doubt that it has contributed to his fall. If the GOP chooses to support his primary opponent in the next election, it is doubtful that he will be re-elected.
This story represents a lesson that the party of Lincoln must learn if they wish to remain relevant in the future. If they decide to reach out to minority communities, people like King will create an unnecessary hurdle in making progress.