I wish I could say that this Steve King remark was a gaffe, or that it will hurt him and his fellow Republicans, but I doubt it:
Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa who has a history of making inflammatory statements viewed by many as insensitive or outright racist, was roundly criticized on Sunday for his apparent endorsement of white nationalism.
Mr. King made the remark on Twitter when he shared a story by the Voice of Europe website about the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who wants to end Muslim immigration and ban the Quran and who has called Moroccan immigrants “scum.”
(Yes, this is the New York Times story about King's tweet. The Times has been fairly forthright about calling Donald Trump's lies and offensive statements what they are, but the hypercaution here -- "apparent endorsement of white nationalism" and "statements viewed by many as insensitive or outright racist" -- suggests that this story was written with a pre-Trump mentality.)
Challenged on his tweet, King was, of course, unapologetic:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Monday defended a weekend tweet endorsing the views of a far-right Dutch politician.
“Well, of course I meant exactly what I said,” King told CNN’s “New Day." ...
“It’s a clear message," King said on Monday. "We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half century or a little more. And Geert Wilders knows that and that’s part of his campaign and part of his agenda."
And really, why should he back down? A few days ago, pollster Stan Greenberg released the results of a focus group he just conducted in Macomb County, Michigan -- the county that came to symbolize the movement of white working-class Democrats to the Republican Party in the Reagan era. All of the participants in this focus group were Trump supporters. These Michiganders aren't King's constituents, but I'm sure that the voters in King's Iowa district who've repeatedly returned him to office would agree with quite a bit of what they say:
One of the women was really “hoping that [Trump will] fix our healthcare situation, but that comes back to the immigrants,” she explained:
“I went and finally signed up for Medicaid, and I’m standing in the damn welfare office, and I’m looking around at all of these people that can’t even say hello to me in English. But they’re all there with appointments for their workers, which means they have the healthcare, they have the food stamps...If you can come from somewhere else, why can’t we all get it?”
They feel getting to the American dream is hard enough and they should be at the front of the line: “I’m all for everybody having the American dream, but I feel that it’s being taken away from a lot of people by people coming and taking advantage.” ...
Gina: ... I’m really afraid of the Muslim religion and I feel like – this is going to sound awful and I’m not a prejudiced person, but I feel like we, like I, as a white person, is the one who is –
Rosa: We’re the minority.
Moderator: What do you think about, you know, they say that in a few years America is going to be a majority minority country? How do you feel about that?
Mary: Well, it’s scary because it’s not like it used to be when people would come here. Because they wanted a better life, they assimilated, and people don’t do that anymore. They come here – if I went, if I moved to another country, I would expect if I went there I’d have to learn their language and follow their [customs and live] under their laws. I would never think I was going to move to Saudi Arabia and go walking around in a sleeveless shirt and shorts – just, I wouldn’t do that. So, it’s frustrating. It’s very frustrating.
Cathy: Although we’re all different. You know, we all have groups, but it does seem as though like there’s still separation – Instead of a community, that this isn’t happening.
Mary: But we should all be Americans.
Lisa: I just, I mean we do it to ourselves, like Dearborn. I mean, we’ve got up all their churches and the bells go off and the chanting and all that kind of stuff. I mean, we allowed that to happen. So, we need to break it all down again and put some rules up behind it.
... A few even expressed their fears of Islam and what its adherents are taught that may make them worry they will turn to terrorism once here:
“It’s not necessarily the people. It’s the religion and what they were taught. They were taught evil, evil things…it’s that they know any better. So, when you’re taught that, it’s embedded in your mind. Just like I’m Catholic and I believe in, you know, the Virgin Mary and God and everything else. But, they’re not telling me to rape 9-year-olds or to kill, you know, bomb citizens. And it’s what they were taught. So, why, if they would do it there, why wouldn’t they do it here?”
Greenberg makes it clear to focus group participants that they can speak their minds frankly without being criticized -- and boy, do they.
Greenberg notes that not all of them speak this way -- some actually liked the Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad in which "America the Beautiful" is sung in six different languages, although "About half said 'I just don’t know why they can’t all sing it in English, since its America,' and a few even said it 'aggravates the hell of me.'"
This is a large portion of the white American electorate. So it's no surprise that Republican officeholders aren't even bothering to distance themselves from King. If we're talking strictly about political self-preservation, why would they?
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog