Steve King Isn’t the Problem — It’s the Republican Party

Steve KingThe Republican Party has learned that Steve King is a racist because he said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Despite the fact that this “awakening” came roughly two decades after it was clear to objective observers, the Republicans are actually getting some good press. They shouldn’t. The Republicans have been a racist party for as long as I’ve been alive.

Ben Shapiro: Synecdoche of Republican Party Thinking

Let’s start with the “cool kids’ philosopher” (CKP), Ben Shapiro. Back on 12 March 2017, Steve King tweeted, “[Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” It was widely attacked for its obvious racism. But the CKP had other ideas, Media Accuse Rep Steve King (R-IA) Of Racism. They’re Lying. Read His Actual Words. He claimed, “It could be argued that King was stating that multiculturalism, combined with high levels of immigration from non-Western cultures, shapes destiny.” (Note the weasel opening clause!)

But last week, the CKP posted an update. In it he wrote, “In light of [King’s recent pro-white-supremist] statements, this article gave far too generous an interpretation of King’s words.”

Shapiro is one step up from most Republicans in one way: he’ll admit to error if it is the only option. In my experience, articles like this one are usually simply taken down by Republicans and their apologists.

Pausible Deniability

But this isn’t saying much because Shapiro’s threshold for admitting any failure of the American right is ridiculously high. It’s also idiosyncratic. I can well understand King’s anger at all of this. After everything he’s said and done over the years, it was the magic of “white supremacist [shouldn’t be] offensive” that did it? Really?!

(A large part of the reason the Republicans turned on King is also due to his poor showing in the 2018 election. In fact, I suspect that Ben Shapiro would still be defending him if King hadn’t only barely won re-election in a heavily Republican district.)

The Republicans have long been the party of plausible deniability. And that’s what’s going on here. As long as they could continue to — as with Ben Shapiro — find an alternate reading for King’s clearly racist statements, they did. It’s the basis for the whole party.

That’s why they can claim that the 2018 tax cut was for the middle class, even though almost 70 percent of the cuts went to the upper class — after all, over 30 percent went to the rest (half of that went to the upper-middle class). And it only gets worse over time.

A Little History

It’s understandable why Republicans would act like this. For my entire lifetime, Republicans have been a racist party. In the 1964 presidential election, Barry Goldwater ran by appealing to southern racists who did not want to integrate. He lost, but the party fixed on this direction. And over the next decade and a half, all of the southern racists who had been in the Democratic Party rushed to join the Republicans. (This fact is ignored by people like Dinesh D’Souza in their farcical arguments that Democrats are the real racists.)

Then, we got Ronald Reagan — the man who got Americans to embrace their racism. His 1980 campaign is well remembered for his “states’ rights” speech in Mississippi near where 3 civil rights workers were lynched in 1964.[1] Then we got Bush with his Willie Horton ad. And on and on up until Trump who doesn’t even try to hide his bigotry and hatred.

If it weren’t for the effectiveness of racist appeals to voters, Republicans would be a tiny party because most of their votes come from people who only benefit from their relative standing compared to minority group members. So clearly, Republicans are going to be sensitive to claims of racism.

Our Useless Definition of Racism

In America, we usually define racism in the most useless way: using forbidden words. So Steve King is not a racist because of his beliefs, but because he said white supremacy shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.

Similarly, people of the left were very excited that a recording of Trump using the n-word might come out. They were excited not because they thought it was important. We all know that Trump is a bigot. We were excited because we knew that this would strip away a major part of his support. He would have lost his plausible deniability.

So What?

This whole brouhaha about Steve King is meaningless. It is just another obvious example of the Republican Party trying to keep up appearances. And our society goes along with it. As long as Trump doesn’t say forbidden words, the media will not call him a racist — even when he’s praising neo-Nazis. If King censure shows anything, it is just how far off the rails the Republican Party has gone in its racist fundamentals.

Let’s not get caught up in what a bad guy Steve King is. He always has been. In saying white supremacy isn’t a bad thing, King showed how Racist his party is and how fluid their definition of it is.

[1] There is an amusing article in RedState that claims liberals are all wrong about this. But all it does is nitpick the claim, noting, for instance, that he didn’t give the speech where the civil rights workers were murdered, but a whole 7 miles away at the state fair. Also: “states’ rights” wasn’t even an applause line. My, that is a compelling argument!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Steve King Isn’t the Problem — It’s the Republican Party

  1. For my entire adult life, the stated philosophy of American conservatism has always been, “we’re the grownups.” As in the famous cliche, “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.” (I’ve lived in poor neighborhoods most of my life and only been mugged once, so I think this concept is, frankly, bullshit.)

    Liberals are bleeding-hearts (you’ll recall that label), acceptable through college years or so. Conservatives are the grownups. Sure, it’d be nice to try and make this a better world, but the smart money is on making it rich.

    At the 2008 GOP convention, three blocks away from my shitty apartment, Sarah Palin got the night’s biggest applause line by sneering that Obama was a “community activist.” They weren’t applauding because Obama had less legislative experience than McCain. They were cheering because the entire notion of working for anyone besides yourself is, in their minds, childish. Just like those simpleton black people who were better off under slavery. My goodness, the ghettos are awful! Not like the nice suburban enclaves!

    (Just in my opinion, I’d rather live in a poor neighborhood; suburbanites are assholes.)

    What’s astounding to me about conservatism is its embrace of vileness as a mark of wisdom. Sure, parents & teachers get worn out, that’s a hard job. Should they just up and bolt? Are they idiots because they didn’t become hedge-fund managers?

    Steve King (and the first time I heard of him, I thought, “wait, that’s not Stephen King” — it’s most certainly not) is a Grownup. He’s just saying what “most people think.” (Pouring water on a grease fire, more accurately.) Do whatever it takes, say whatever it takes, to make as much money and get enough power as you can.

    Quite oddly, many of these racist, rich-fluffing Republicans are religious (or at least claim to be). I’m no expert on world religions, but I do know my Bible reasonably well, and I can’t recall the parts which say “take a giant shit on Samaritans, they’re different” or “get rich and get it fast, you only live once.” Maybe I’m misremembering a few bits. But I strongly doubt it.

    • I can say this for King: he seems to be a true believer. So I don’t think he’s demagoguing in a cynical way. That’s not to say that most Republican politicians aren’t comfortable with their own racism. But I don’t think they would use it if it didn’t help them. I think King still would. And I’ve always thought that being a bigot was not as bad as cynically using it to advance your interests.

      That phrase has been reduced to, “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.” I had it used on me recently by someone who was claiming that if I was ever robbed I would change my view on capital punishment. (I know, it doesn’t follow.) I noted that unlike him who only had his house burglarized, I was violently mugged and it didn’t change my beliefs one bit. (I didn’t ask if he was a liberal before that; I already knew the answer: no.) Even after I explained that he repeated the same thing because I guess that he just couldn’t get his head around it. It’s odd given that this belief must assume that liberals don’t know that people get robbed and killed.

      But the original phrase was from Irving Kristol, “A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” I can see why it has been shortened because Kristol’s point actually made sense and the short version is just a ridiculous notion like the guy who thought liberals were just naive.

      The truth is that on the whole conservatives are happier than liberals. My take on that is liberals see how horrible the world is and want to do something about it. Conservatives don’t and so don’t. That’s why they think that churches can solve all the world’s problems.

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