The New King of Intolerance

By Miguel Perez

July 30, 2013 6 min read

He has become toxic material in Washington D.C. Even the leaders of his own party are running away from him and strongly condemning the waste that keeps coming out of his mouth. But Iowa Rep. Steve King is undeterred. He has a narcissistic need for attention, and he is determined to get it by bashing on immigrants.

It's not a new phenomenon. In recent history, we've had quite a few poster boys for American xenophobia: Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, former California Rep. Bob Dornan, former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo and former Arizona Senate President Russell Pierce.

Yet, aside from having been obnoxious demagogues when they were in office, the thing they still have in common is the word "former" preceding their elected titles.

Is King heading in the same direction? Are his constituents getting tired of his embarrassing diatribes? Is there a pattern here?

Not quite.

Unlike the other poster boys who represented states and districts where the Latino vote was significant, King represents the overwhelmingly white and conservative 4th Congressional District in southwest Iowa, where he is now in his sixth term and where minority voters still are a tiny minority.

Apparently, he feels he can afford to be obnoxious.

In his latest diatribe — the one that is getting all the headlines — King went after the young undocumented immigrants who were mostly brought here by their parents when they were children. With absolutely no basis for his conclusion, he determined that for every so-called "Dreamer" who is a valedictorian in an American high school, "there's another hundred out there that weigh 130 pounds, and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."

And while these remarks were condemned even by some GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, although they used words like "wrong," "hateful" and "inexcusable" to describe King's diatribe, you have to wonder what took them so long to at least pretend that they are offended by King's conduct.

After all, it's not like this was the first time King has made offensive remarks. It's not like we didn't know that he actually thrives on repulsive comments. If "Intolerance" was a country, this guy could be its King!

You have to wonder why the GOP leadership didn't react this way when King has compared human beings to livestock and dogs, or when he said 80 million out-of-work Americans were "slackers," or when he characterizes undocumented immigrants as criminals, or when he has tried to deny American citizenship to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, or when he warned against the "optics" of an Obama presidency, or when much more other toxic waste came out of King's mouth is the past few years.

You would think Boehner and Cantor would have been similarly offended when King suggested we build an electrified Mexican-border fence that could shock immigrants who tried to enter the country without proper documents — because, "We do it with livestock all the time." Or when King suggested that this country should select immigrants like hunters select their dogs by choosing "the pick of the litter" from "every donor civilization on the planet."

So why now? Why is the House GOP leadership suddenly concerned about immigrant bashing? Could it be because they suddenly care about immigrants or because they suddenly need to pretend that they care?

Have they really changed their ways? Or are they simply trying to keep King from annoying Latino voters across the country? Even if he is safe in his own district, surely his national grandstanding can hurt other Republicans with Latino voters throughout the United States.

Obviously, this is more about damage control than a real change in direction for the Republican Party. After all, this is still the same party where not too long ago, King wasn't the only wacko trying to deny citizenship to "anchor babies" or to electrify border fences or to make life so difficult for 11 million undocumented immigrants that they would want to "self-deport."

Expecting Boehner and Cantor to suddenly become more tolerant of immigrants is unrealistic, especially when so many of their conservative House colleagues still are obsessed with persecuting these people. Their reactions to King's latest insults were nothing more than an act — cheap theater, lip service!

But what about King's constituents? They may be 95 percent white, but according to a recent poll, 65 percent of them already favor a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Sure, they still are very conservative, and they want a Congressman who represents their values. But can't they find someone who could do that without promoting ignorance and hatred?

When the last xenophobia poster boy, Russell Pierce, was recalled from office in Arizona in 2011, it was because another Republican, Sen. Jerry Lewis, had vowed to stay way from "hateful rhetoric."

Surely, Iowa must have Republicans with a little more wits and a lot more class.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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