On Saturday, Rep. Steve King, a Republican congressman from Iowa, shared a meme on Facebook that suggested that the south would win a renewed civil war against the north, given that “one side has about eight trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know what bathroom to use.” The meme depicts a pastiche human figure comprised of southern states punching a similarly personified pastiche of northern states.
King deleted the post, likely because he represents the northern state of Iowa; in the meme, Iowa forms the bicep of the blue human figure getting gut-punched by the south. In one poorly crafted meme apparently circa early-2010s, King managed to forget which state he represents, commit an illegal act of sedition and egregiously offend trans folks.
In January, the congressman made headlines after asking, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” An opponent of immigration and multiculturalism, King was described by The Washington Post as “the U.S. congressman most openly affiliated with white nationalism.”
Steve King is an unabashed racist, yet the GOP failed for the majority of his problematic tenure to address his conduct. Only following his January comments concerning white supremacy was King removed from his committee assignments by the Republican Steering Committee. He was never denounced by President Trump.
While King’s blatant racism has been tolerated for years, Republicans unloaded a circus of criticism when Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar suggested that the disciplinary measures she faced because of her criticisms of Israel were financially motivated, tweeting, “it’s all about the Benjamins baby.” Many accused her of employing an antisemitic trope, and a House Resolution condemning antisemitism was resultantly passed, a resolution clearly targeting Omar.
Trump was expectedly vocal about Omar’s tweet, going as far as to call for her resignation. Controversy surrounding Omar circulated for weeks following her tweet, even as she offered a timely apology for her words.
Republicans exacerbated the criticism, and resultant negative news coverage of Omar is profoundly hypocritical, reflecting the privileged capacity of white male politicians to largely avoid punishment for offensive behavior. Considering that the GOP failed for years to address the blatantly white supremacist rhetoric of King, its criticism of Omar is disingenuous, merely a ploy to provoke negative news coverage of a prominent democrat.
Likewise, Trump explicitly supported Alabama Republican candidate Roy Moore, who allegedly committed sexual assault against underage victims and who suggested removing all amendments after the Bill of Rights would “eliminate many problems.” Given Trump’s record of offensive behavior and language, illustrated by the leaked Access Hollywood tape in which he brags about committing sexual assault, his condemnation of Omar is outrageously hypocritical.
The reprehensible behavior of Steve King is not surprising given his history of offensive language, neither is it unexpected that Trump defended a Fox News host who was suspended this week for suggesting that Omar’s hijab reflects her ideological opposition to the constitution.
Trump and King are each subsumed in a narrative of white-supremacist entitlement that disavows criticism as censorship and fake news, and Omar, a black, female, Muslim refugee, serves as an existential threat to the presence of white supremacy in U.S. governance.
Following the tragic terrorist attack in New Zealand, enacted by a white supremacist who idolized Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity,” Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, clarified before the press that “Donald Trump is not a white supremacist.” However, white supremacists apparently believe otherwise.
GOP members have consistently disregarded the profanity, white supremacy and unchecked privilege of its white-male membership while simultaneously lambasting Democratic members such as Omar for lesser offenses. That Republican members condemn Omar but fail to acknowledge the blatantly offensive nature of their colleagues and Trump reflects either an intense cognitive dissonance or a pathological partisan hyper-loyalty.