Defending his party's reputation of consisting mainly of "old, white people," Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa on Monday questioned where "any other subgroup of people" contributed more to society than in Western civilization. "This 'old, white people' business does get a little tired," King said on MSNBC Monday, hours before the first speaker would take the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. "I'd ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you're talking about -- where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?"
July 18, 201602:02
When MSNBC's Chris Hayes, taken aback, asked, "Than white people?" the right-wing congressman kept going, adding that he believes the greatest contributions of civilization have come from "Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Unites States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world."
Just so we're clear, the Republican Party has a demographic problem: in a country of increasing racial and ethnic diversity, the GOP relies overwhelmingly on older, white voters. Asked to reflect on his party's challenge, Steve King told a national television audience that white people are awesome.
In fact, as far as the Republican congressman is concerned, there's nothing wrong with ranking groups of people and then determining which one reigns supreme based on their contributions to civilization.
Did I mention that King, who's from Iowa, keeps a Confederate flag on his desk? Because he does.
There will probably be some who argue that King is a fringe figure, whose ugly rants in no way reflect contemporary Republican thought, so his offensive tirades are better left ignored. But it's really not that simple.
For much of 2015, for example, GOP presidential candidates, eager to do well in the first caucus state, treated the far-right lawmaker as a perfectly credible figure, worthy of respect.
And this goes beyond just the campaign trail. As recently as two years ago, House Republican leaders, unable to govern themselves, effectively handed King control over the congressional GOP's immigration policy.
In other words, King's perspective on race may be deplorable, but his relevance in Republican politics is not easily dismissed.