What about Steve King’s voters?
At long last, the GOP showed a sense of decency.
Republican leaders finally condemned Iowa’s U.S. Rep. Steve King after his years of shamelessly spouting ugly, divisive racial hatred.
King’s recent comment — “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” — was hardly his worst. Critics wondered what took Republicans so long, and whether their shunning of King was just cover for the party’s refusal to challenge President Trump’s bigotry.
Conservative columnist Michael Gerson put it well:
“Republicans seem desperate to explain that they are normal and moral — despite all the evidence. Attacking King reveals some sense of shame at what they have become.
“Yet, in the end, Republican critics of King manage to look worse rather than better. If racism is the problem, then President Trump is a worse offender. And the GOP’s relative silence on Trump is a sign of hypocrisy and weakness.”
Meanwhile, the real culprits get a pass: The people of the fourth Congressional district of Iowa who put King in Congress for several consecutive terms — 16 years all told. Even while King’s voters were fully aware of his proud racism. And even though their support for King taints the district as hateful and backwards, telling the world that something is rotten in the state of Iowa, in the heart of America.
Could be. Look at the facts:
King is immensely popular at home. He won his 2014 and 2016 elections by an overwhelming 60+ percent majority. Even amid the Blue Wave last November, with a strong Democratic opponent and accusations of liberal George Soros money swamping the race, King still won by a comfortable margin of 50.4 to 47 percent.
In some counties, King won a complete landslide — in Sioux by 48 points; Lyon by 46 points, and in tiny Osceola, with only 2,400 voters, by 39 points.
Now look at King’s district. It’s nearly 96 white. Just 2.5 percent is Hispanic — including recent arrivals to work at a local meatpacking plant — while 1.1 percent is Asian, and less than 1 percent is African American.
Put these numbers together and it’s hard not to suggest King’s supporters, who live in a place where whites are supreme, either don’t mind his bigotry, or they share it.
No, Sioux City’s mayor Bob Scott told the Washington Post, “They may have problems with immigration. They may have problems about race relations for whatever reason. I just don’t see that kind of racism here ….”
“Steve’s Steve,” King’s home-county supervisor said. “He’s a local guy. He graduated from high school here. He comes in for breakfast on Sundays. I don’t see him as racist. I don’t know. He’s just Steve.”
Another King supporter explained it differently: “We’re getting pretty happy in this country about kicking the white guy. Only one group of people haven’t achieved minority status, and it’s white men. You can fire a white man every time you want. He’s got no recourse. Try that with anybody else.”
Said another King defender, “There are people out there that are desperate as hell, and I’m one of them.” Once while standing in line for public assistance, she recalled, “What upset me more that anything was all them black babies were dressed up in the best clothes. When their kids are wearing $150 tennis shoes, what do you think?”
On King’s anti-immigration stance, she said, “Why should we feed others when we can’t feed ourselves?”
In spilling ink over King, the national media largely lets his voters like these off the hook. I get why. College-educated, comfortable coastal “elites” don’t want to be accused of condescension, criticizing honest, hard-working, struggling Trump-voting “deplorables” in flyover America dotted with failing farms and factories.
To the media — at least the responsible, independent media — blaming the victims of forces beyond their control is wrong. Journalism is supposed to comfort the afflicted, whatever their race.
But journalism is also supposed to follow the facts wherever they lead. The facts here lead to the conclusion that King’s voters — whether by cheering, accepting or overlooking his bigotry — should be held accountable for giving this guy a seat in Congress and a national platform to spew his hate.
Tiptoeing around bigoted voters is a worse condescension: Poor dears. They don’t know any better. Even if they’re supporting a bigot and dragging down the country.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer