We are well into 2019 now, and I thought this was the year to be new. That’s what all the motivational posters keep telling me. Except, I am still seeing a barrage of the same old hypocrisy in politics. If anything, it’s been amplified recently.
Let’s start with the GOP, which in January publicly decried remarks made by Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), who in an article by the New York Times on January 10 asked, “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did language become offensive?” Almost immediately, Republicans closed rank against him. Mitch McConnell said King should look for another job if he can’t understand why white supremacy is considered offensive. House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy said King’s remarks were “reckless, wrong, and have no place in our society.”
Iowa Republicans are already announcing they will primary King in the 2020 elections, and within days of his comments King had been formally stripped of all his committee assignments in Congress. But here’s the thing—as abhorrent as King’s comments are, they were hardly the first inflammatory comments he’s ever made. In fact, he’s kind of known for his full-throated nationalism and racist dog whistling.
As recently as March of this year, King was under fire yet again for a post on his official campaign Facebook page displaying a meme that suggested the South would win again if there was a second civil war, because they have “about 8 trillion bullets” on that side.
This is the man who kept a Confederate flag prominently displayed on his office desk (need I remind you, he’s a Congressman from Iowa, a state that definitely fought for the Union?), suggested that for every Valedictorian DREAMER out there, there are just as many children of immigrants with “calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling drugs across the desert into the U.S., and once displayed a model of a southern border wall prototype on the floor of the House (long before Trump) that he said could be topped with barbed wire and electrified as is done with livestock.
And those are just a few of King’s greatest racist hits. This seeming no-quarter-given approach by the GOP to King’s recent behavior is astounding in light of everything they’ve let King get away with for years, not to mention that they are rushing to condemn (and rightfully so, don’t get me wrong) King while blithely ignoring or excusing every outright racist comment the President makes on the regular.
Trump launched himself into the political conversation by promulgating the racist “birther” conspiracy theory that our nation’s first African American president was born in Kenya. He claimed Mexicans were rapists in the speech that kicked off his bid for President in 2015. One of the first executive orders Trump issued upon entering office was the so-called “Muslim Ban,” which sought to suspend the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries—Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and Somalia— for 90 days and stop all refugees from entering the country for 120 days.
Nazi’s were opening marching in the streets during a rally-turned-riot that resulted in the death of an innocent female protester—yet Trump refused to roundly condemn the white supremacists, instead famously remarking that “there were some very fine people on both sides.”
Even as members of his own party were voicing their (potentially faux) outrage at King’s comments, Trump was on Twitter mocking Elizabeth Warren for not announcing her 2020 Presidential campaign bid at Wounded Knee and resurrecting his abhorrent “Pocahontas” nickname for her.
So why are Republicans appearing to make a moral stand now, after everything they’ve been OK with in the past? It’s almost as if they are using King as their racist whipping boy, a weak attempt at trying to get on the right side of history when they are too cowardly to openly condemn their own party’s figure head. Mitch McConnell managed to perfectly illustrate this hypocrisy even as he tried to explain it away, saying “Look, it’s been my practice for the last couple of years not to make random observations about the president’s tweeting and other things. Congressman King clearly uttered words that are unacceptable in America today.”
It’s also worth noting that it was the very same Republican party who collectively clutched their pearls when incoming freshman Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) included the statement “…Because we’re going to go in there, and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker” in a speech to supporters after she was sworn in. Ms. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American and one of the first Muslims elected to Congress, faced immediate backlash for her comment. Many in the GOP, Trump included, called her statement “profane” and “disrespectful to the United States.” Setting aside the controversy of whether or not Democrats as a whole are ready to move forward with impeachment proceedings against the President, it’s interesting that there was such a fall-out over a Congressperson’s use of “motherfucker” when we currently have a President who repeatedly hurls profanities in the course of public speeches, including that very same expletive.
It just seems too damn obvious to say that the GOP is hypocritical in its treatment of King considering everything Trump has said and done. But their recent lambast of King is exactly the reaction decent human beings should have toward that kind of egregious behavior, and we need to hear more of it from all elected officials.
Not that it actually happens much in this day and age, but our politicians should be setting high standards and leading the way to being the best possible version of humanity that we can be. Right now, we have the President making racist, bigoted remarks on the regular, denouncing the media and any other group he can define as “other” as the enemy…and all of that is starting to be reflected more and more in stories we are hearing about reporters and members of various minority groups being attacked and harassed. For a sharp illustration of this, here’s a website attempting to aggregate all the incidences where violence has been done while invoking the name of the President, or where the President himself or his staff have verbally attacked minorities. This goes past the headlines stories we are all familiar with and seeks to show the insidious nature of Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric.
So why is Trump held to a different standard than any other politician? Why does his behavior, amplified from the largest soap box in the land, get a pass? Is it because Trump is not expected to be a decent person? I would argue that anyone who has even a passing knowledge of Steve King recognizes that he is the exact opposite of a “good person,” and for some reason as long as he remained an inconsequential Representative from the more rural part of a Midwestern flyover state, his bigotry was allowed to pass by unchecked. And it would likely have remained unchecked, except that Trump has finally gone past points that the GOP is uncomfortable with, yet they can’t openly censor their own party’s figurehead. Ironically, it’s logical to assume that King’s verbal garbage spewed forth with more venom in the last few years precisely because he was emboldened by Trump’s own brand of racist pomposity.
But forget Steve King. Republicans need to openly condemn Trump’s racism and bigotry or make that the hallmark of their party. They don’t get to lampoon statements from one racist while letting the Bigot in Chief slide; and we need to make sure they are held accountable for their inconsistencies. Call your Congresspeople. Ask them what they plan to do about (insert Trump’s most recent racist remark or policy here).
Be persistent. The GOP’s handling of King has signaled they recognize the times are changing and Americans won’t stand for that kind of behavior. Now we make sure they know that standard is for everyone.