Steve King, the nativist who just comes right out and says it

Ed Kilgore writes: Nothing upsets conservative “nationalists” like Stephen Bannon more than the charge that bigotry is at the center of the movement that gave us President Trump. While Bannon admits there is racism and anti-Semitism at the fringes of the alt-right, with which his old journalistic perch at Breibart has associated, he insists on treating such influences as marginal.

It is worth remembering that this is a persistent claim among right-bent political activists who may or may not themselves be bigoted, but who are clearly trafficking in appeals to bigots. When George Wallace shifted his focus from defending segregation to attacking unpopular desegregation methods like school busing, he argued he was just favoring the color-blind posture of his old enemies in the civil-rights movement. But he — and we — knew better when it came to the visceral politics of race he espoused.

The effort to marginalize the role of racial or religious bigots in cultural conservatism works best when everybody’s got the memo and is refusing to say things that cross the line. But right there in Washington, within close proximity of the cameras, is at least one member of Congress who, to use a phrase sometimes said of Wallace in his heyday, just comes right out and says it: Iowa’s Steve King. No, King doesn’t admit to racially or religiously discriminatory sentiments, as much as he flirts with them. But for years he has been closely associated (along with his very close friend, former Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado) with a brand of nativism that views both illegal and legal immigration as threats to what can only be described as European-American “civilization,” and who is willing to trade in crude stereotypes of people of color. [Continue reading…]

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