So, it happened: The GOP finally did something about the open white supremacist in their House caucus, albeit years late and much less than the full censure and expulsion Iowa Rep. Steve King deserves.
On Monday night, the House Republican leadership removed King from his perch on both the Judiciary and Agricultural committees ahead of a push from House Democrats to censure him. The move came after an interview in which King asked the New York Times when the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalism” became offensive—a question with an obvious answer if you aren’t a white supremacist.
As with conservative writer Ben Shapiro’s about-face over the same comments last week, we’re already seeing praise heaped on House Republican leaders, mostly by other Republicans like Ari Fleischer, who didn’t dare to miss an opportunity to wield the GOP bare minimum here for political gain:
This was not some one-off comment—or a “freshman mistake,” as King put it—that the Iowa congressman made, as House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy himself acknowledged on Monday night. King has been saying shit like this for years. Witness his comments that “we can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies,” his endorsement of a white supremacist who ran for the mayor of Toronto (yes, the one in Canada), and his frequent efforts to make common cause with the European neofascist movement, to name just a few. His latest comments weren’t surprising in the slightest. (“Maybe I did not see those, but I disagree with these,” McCarthy told the New York Times when asked why these recent comments were the breaking point rather than anything else King has said over the past several years.)
What’s most curious about all of this is the timing. You could ascribe the GOP finally doing something about King to McCarthy and his fellow party leaders wanting to look “tough on racism,” as the New York Times did, but this decision didn’t exist in a vacuum. In November, King nearly lost his seat in his deeply conservative and rural district to a relatively left-wing Democrat. Last week, Republican Iowa state Senator Randy Feenstra declared his intention to run against King in the 2020 primary, citing the “distractions” that King’s open support of white supremacy has caused. For Republicans, there has never been a more opportune moment to drop Steve King’s ass than the opening that they’ve been handed here.
You would think that this would be a chance for some introspection among Republicans—for them to ask why people like Steve King are so drawn to their party. But even as they marginalize King within Congress, McCarthy’s deputy is Steve Scalise, a man who once reportedly described himself as “David Duke without the baggage” and spoke at a white supremacist rally while he was a state legislator in Louisiana. In a party that was truly committed to eradicating racism within its ranks, Scalise would have gotten the boot years ago. Instead, he’s the second-most powerful Republican in the House.
King’s days might be numbered in Congress, but the stench is going to stay in the Republican caucus for years. As long as it supports racists and their racist policies, it won’t really be changing at all. The only difference is that, without King, the quiet parts might be quiet again.