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Despite Racist Rhetoric, Iowa Politician Gains 36% of Voter Support

Steve King is an Iowa politician known for what some describe as incendiary, racist, anti-immigrant, and white nationalist remarks that have been considered precursors to the Trump era. With a message similar to Trump’s, the nine-term Republican Congressman continued to get reelected by his constituents over the past 17 years – up until yesterday when he was defeated in the Iowa primary election by Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra. The election outcome seems to suggest a slight decline in the popularity of racism.

While some are considering King’s loss a victory, it’s a troubling victory.

There were about 36% of Republican voters (close to 30,000 people) who supported King in the election. That’s a very large number of people who seem to not be bothered by his message, and perhaps who voted for him because of that message.

This is a troubling outcome and revealing measure of the extent to which racist rhetoric is accepted and normalized in our country, or at least in Iowa. Not only is it accepted, but among some voters it seems to be a desired qualification for political office.

King had substantial voter support despite having his own party turn against him, and despite there being a very qualified Republican alternative that had 15-times the funding.

The Iowa primary election, on 2 June 2020, came at a time when overall national awareness and disdain regarding racism has been at an all time high. Unprecedented acts of solidarity show police joining with BLM protesters across the nation, and making impassioned statements on social media.

One of the most persuasive, passionate, well-informed, and compassionate statements against racism and racial disparity was a Tweet from the President. Not the current President, but President George W. Bush, who was speaking up to offer a message of understanding and solidarity to bring America together, promote healing, and foster reconciliation. That message is below.

The outcome of Tuesday’s election is a reminder that acceptance of racism has deep roots in many areas of the country. It doesn’t take long to pass laws that promote equality, and bad cops can be prosecuted quickly, but what doesn’t happen quickly is a genuine change of mind and heart among some people who hang on to bigotry. That only changes over generations, with a lot of continuous effort on the part of everyone.

George W. Bush Statement on Racism

Laura and I are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country. Yet we have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures – and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths.

It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country. It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. This tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies — raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving. Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place.

America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union. The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals — to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights. We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is, and how our cherished principles challenge systems of intended or assumed injustice. The heroes of America — from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. — are heroes of unity. Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation — stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America’s need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised.

Source: CBS News, Kathryn Watson, 2 Jun 2020 at 6:41 PM

Further Reading

Below are additional resources related to this story. They are listed by source.

  • CBS News, Kathryn Watson, 2 Jun 2020 at 6:41 PM. “George W. Bush says George Floyd’s death is latest “in a long series of similar tragedies” Excerpt: Former President George W. Bush issued his first public statement Tuesday on the death of George Floyd, saying he and former first lady Laura Bush are “anguished.” He urged Americans to see the reality of the nation’s need by seeing it through the “eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised.” [More…]
  • CBS 2 Iowa, Thomas Beaumont, 2 Jun 2020. “Randy Feenstra beats Steve King in U.S. House District 4 race” Excerpt: “Longtime Rep. Steve King has been ousted in Iowa’s Republican primary after being ostracized by party leaders for comments about white nationalism. State Sen. Randy Feenstra won the five-way race Tuesday after he argued the nine-term conservative Republican had cost the district a voice in Congress by losing his committee assignments over comments in a 2018 New York Times story that seemed to defend white nationalism. King has a long record of incendiary comments about immigrants and white supremacy. [More…]
  • Des Moines Register, Stephen Gruber-Miller, 3 Jun 2020 1:10 AM. “Steve King loses Republican primary race to Randy Feenstra, ending King’s decadeslong political career” Excerpt: “Republican voters ousted U.S. Rep. Steve King on Tuesday, delivering an end to the two decades of controversy he brought to his heavily conservative district.” [More…]
  • Huffington Post, Christopher Mathias, 3 Jun 2020 at 12:05 PM ET. “White Supremacist Congressman Steve King Defeated In Shock GOP Primary” Excerpt: “A coalition of GOP figures, seeing King as a liability for the party, had supported the campaign of his opponent, former state Sen. Randy Feenstra. Steve King, the white supremacist congressman from Iowa, was defeated in a shocking Republican primary Tuesday, bringing an end to the long legislative career of one of Washington’s most explicit bigots. [More…]
  • New York Times, Trip Gabriel, 3 Jun 2020 at 12:36 AM. “Steve King, House Republican With a History of Racist Remarks, Loses Primary” Excerpt: “Mr. King, one of the nation’s most divisive elected officials, saw his power in Congress curtailed last year after he questioned why white supremacy was considered offensive. Representative Steve King of Iowa, the nine-term Republican with a history of racist comments who only recently became a party pariah, lost his bid for renomination early Wednesday, one of the biggest defeats of the 2020 primary season in any state.” [More…]
  • Resources for Life, May – June 2020. “News Coverage of the May-June 2020 Protests” Excerpt: “This page contains selected news stories about the May 2020 protests organized chronologically under topic heading.” [More…]
  • Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, 2 Jun 2020 at 6:30 PM. “George W. Bush calls out racial injustices and celebrates protesters who ‘march for a better future’” Excerpt: “Former president George W. Bush addressed the nationwide protests in a solemn yet hopeful statement Tuesday, commending the Americans demonstrating against racial injustice and criticizing those who try to silence them.” [More…]

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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