For Republicans, the problem with Representative Steve King isn’t that he’s an unabashed racist, homophobe, and misogynist. It’s that when he talks about white nationalism or abortion rights, he says the quiet part loud.
Explaining his opposition to abortion under any circumstances, King said, “What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that? Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that’s taken place, and whatever happened to culture after society, I know that I can’t certify that I’m not a product of that. And I’d like to think every one of the lives of us are as precious as any other life.”
He also stands firmly against common sense and compassion.
King’s fellow House Republicans raced to condemn him, branding his comments as “wrong,” and “appalling.” In a statement, the Republican Party of Iowa called King’s remarks, “offensive” and “not reflective of the party’s views.”
Except, of course, they are. This is the Republican Party.
Denouncing as vile King’s comments about a world populated by rape and incest is easy. But his medieval ideas about a woman’s right to control her reproductive choices line up perfectly with his party’s extreme platform. Note that no Republican has condemned King’s staunch belief that a girl or woman victimized by rape or incest should be forced to carry a resulting pregnancy to term. They don’t mind what he said, only how he said it.
Representative Liz Cheney said King’s remarks are “appalling,” and that he should resign. (She isn’t the first Republican to call for King's resignation.) Yet just last month, the Wyoming congresswoman defended President Trump’s repulsive insistence that four progressive Democratic congresswomen of color “go back” to their home countries, even though all of them, including Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, are American citizens.
Under the skin, Cheney and her fellow Republicans are no different than King.
Of course, if the House GOP wants King out, they could vote to expel him. Democrats may have a majority, but it falls short of the two-thirds necessary to kick King to the curb. A vote across the aisle could make that happen, but don’t count on it.
In January, GOP leadership removed King from all House committees. This came after a New York Times interview in which he asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
That was the Republicans’ big bipartisan concession, and it’s likely as far as they’ll go. Certainly, they must have serious doubts about King’s re-election prospects. While he has served a very conservative district since 2003, King barely beat Democrat J.D. Scholten in 2018 — and Scholten is running again next year. King is also facing a primary challenge for his seat; if he’s to be thrown overboard, it’s voters — not Republican lawmakers — who will do the tossing.
For years, the GOP essentially ignored King’s clown car of idiocy. They said nothing when he claimed an Obama victory would have “al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters . . . dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11.” They looked away when he defended racial profiling, and pushed incendiary ideas about white men being replaced by women and people of color.
Now Trump’s position in the White House has made King a convenient target of Republican ire. Onto King, they can cast all sins. While the president runs amok and incites domestic terrorism, the GOP can look like it still has a shred of decency by going after King in a way it would never dare go after Trump.
King is Trump. Trump is King. Both men, who offend simply by opening their mouths, represent the putrefying soul of the Republican Party. And despite all the phony public umbrage over King’s latest outrage, they wouldn’t have it any other way.