It was only after King’s latest remarks that Republicans condemned him with any kind of force. King drew a rebuke from Iowa’s two Republican senators, House Republicans have said they may take action against the congressman, and other high-profile Republican legislators, such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, have condemned his remarks. The conservative intellectual Henry Olsen warned that the “seeds of bigotry” could take root in the Republican Party, and National Review called for King to be expelled from Congress, declaring that “one of the glories of American history is how we finally shed our shameful racist past.”
Hardly. While it is heartening to see that King’s antics have finally drawn a unified response of condemnation from the right, the reactions seem to miss the obvious point that there is little daylight between Steve King and the president of the United States, Donald Trump. (Neither National Review’s editorial nor Scott’s op-ed even mentions the president’s name.)
But don’t take my word for it. In 2014, as Trump was mulling a run for president, he made an appearance in Iowa with King, calling him a “special guy, a smart person, with really the right views on almost everything,” and noting that their views on the issues were so similar that “we don’t even have to compare notes.”
Little has changed. The president has defended white nationalists; sought to exploit the census to dilute the political power of minority voters; described immigration as an infestation, warning that it was “changing the culture of Europe”; derided black and Latino immigrants as coming from “shithole countries,” while expressing a preference for immigrants from places like “Norway”; and generally portrayed nonwhite immigrants as little more than rapists, drug dealers, and murderers at every opportunity.
Unlike King, however, the president has the authority, by himself, to make his views into policy. From his travel ban to his child-separation policy to his revocation of protections for immigrants brought here as children, he has pursued discriminatory policies with a commitment he has shown for few other campaign promises. Even now, the federal government remains shut down, its workforce denied payment for their labor, all in pursuit of the construction of a taxpayer-funded symbolic monument of disapproval toward immigrants of Latin American descent.
As if to remind the world of his similarity to King, on Sunday night, Trump tweeted a column from Pat Buchanan arguing that the president should seize executive power and build the wall without approval from Congress, warning that unless he does so, “the United States, as we have known it, is going to cease to exist.” Such a barrier is made necessary, Buchanan argues, because of the increasing diversity of the United States, which he portrays in apocalyptic terms. “The more multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual America becomes—the less it looks like Ronald Reagan’s America—the more dependably Democratic it will become,” he argues in the same column. “The Democratic Party is hostile to white men, because the smaller the share of the U.S. population that white men become, the sooner that Democrats inherit the national estate.”