Throughout his congressional career, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has made headlines for his comments on white supremacy.
After Esquire’s Charlie Pierce highlighted a lack of diversity at the 2016 Republican National Convention, King questioned whether people of color had made significant contributions to society. “This ‘old white people' business does get a little tired, Charlie,” he said. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
In an August interview with a far-right Austrian website, he asked: “What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have? Mexican food. Chinese food,” he said. “Those things, well, that’s fine, but what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price?”
This week, he’s at it again.
In a New York Times piece on how King shaped Trump’s immigration politics, the lawmaker once again defended his position on white supremacy by asking a series of rhetorical questions.
Mr. King, in the interview, said he was not a racist. He pointed to his Twitter timeline showing him greeting Iowans of all races and religions in his Washington office. (The same office once displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.)
At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
Of course, many people who sit in history classes have studied the complicated history of white supremacy, which has been used to excuse murder, genocide, rape and other violent acts throughout history.
King’s comments were, predictably, met with criticism from the left and the right.
King even released a statement trying to distance himself from his remarks. But he did not suggest that the paper misquoted his statement.
But that hasn’t stopped the alt-right — a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state — from defending the points King espoused.
After white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville to preserve monuments that honor the white Confederate soldiers who fought to keep black people enslaved, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill journalism professor Daniel Kreiss wrote for The Post:
The face of white supremacy has changed in important ways. The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” event was designed to reconstitute and rebrand various white right-wing groups under the banner of the “alt-right” and make the movement more publicly visible. This newer, more diffuse, younger and technologically enabled movement — promoted by prominent (former) White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, among others — seeks to advance white identity politics through appeals to equality, democratic multiculturalism and freedom of speech.
But the 2018 midterm elections suggest there are consequences for promoting this type of identity politics. Though King, who has won nine elections for his seat, defeated his Democratic opponent, he won by the smallest margin since entering Congress. And the Republican Party lost control of the House during an election that was viewed at least in part as a referendum on the party’s lack of diversity. Perhaps this is why some of the pushback to King is coming from those in his party.
But Americans appear uninterested in convincing those who think like King to change. Instead, they are sending representatives to Washington who they believe reflect the populations they represent. As what it means to be American diversifies, many citizens are showing a shrinking tolerance for politicians and candidates who embrace racism. And while still more prevalent than many would like, King’s worldview is losing ground with Americans who find individuals who sympathize with white nationalism the exact opposite of what makes America great.