Anyone who follows politics, even peripherally, knows that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is an unapologetic racist. For years, his bigotry was largely constrained to the shadows, only occasionally emerging into the daylight, whereupon fresh outrage and condemnation compelled him to crawl back into his hole.
But in Donald Trump’s America, no salute to civil discourse is required. King has openly embraced racism, mostly without repercussions, and even was reelected to Congress last year.
His free ride might finally be coming to an end after an an interview with the New York Times in which he bemoaned the fact that white people were no longer treated as genetically superior to non-whites.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said.
Reaction to the story was swift. But this time, alongside average Americans who have routinely condemned King’s hateful rhetoric were several notable Republican lawmakers and conservative icons.
First was Ben Shapiro, deemed by many to be a white supremacist in his own right but who does a better job of keeping his beliefs hidden under a veneer of intellectualism.
Then came a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post penned by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), a conservative lawmaker but also the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate.
“When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole,” Scott wrote on Friday.
And then on Saturday came two more notable defections from within the Republican party: both of Iowa’s Republican senators.
Responding to a question from a reporter from Axios, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who endorsed King’s reelection campaign just two months ago, said, “I find it offensive to claim white supremacy. I will condemn it.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) tweeted her own rebuke, calling King’s comments “offensive and racist.”
I condemn Rep. Steve King’s comments on white supremacy; they are offensive and racist – and not representative of our state of Iowa. 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.
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) January 12, 2019
It still remains to be seen whether King will actually incur any punishment for his latest display of racism. Democrats could conceivably move to have King stripped of his high-profile seat on the House Judiciary Committee, and there appears to be a growing movement to introduce a resolution formally censuring him on the House floor — a largely symbolic gesture, but one that would put his Republican colleagues on the record for either supporting or condemning King.
King’s congressional seat could soon be in jeopardy as well.
Randy Feenstra, a prominent Iowa Republican who has served in the state legislature for the last decade, announced last week that he would challenge King in the 2020 GOP primary, the first serious electoral threat King has faced from within his own party.