On Monday, Representative Steve King made headlines of the worst kind when, responding to the idea that the Republican Party is a monolithic entity, he said: “This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired. 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?”
Making an even bigger royal mess, King continued: “Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
Later, King elaborated. “The contributions that were made by Western civilization itself, and by Americans, by Americans of all races, stand far above the rest of the world,” he asserted. King deserves to be commended for amending his remarks, if only slightly, to include a vision of multi-racial America. Still, even this tempered version has hubris oozing out of each syllable.
King would do well to recall the words of Sir Isaac Newton. “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants,” he humbly expressed. When measured against the grand sweep of history, America is an infant. By virtue of our youth, our contributions—although great indeed—are very much built upon “the shoulders of giants.” There is a profound difference between recognizing American exceptionalism and arrogantly believing that our contributions to the world are superior to all others. One is sentimental but sound; the other silly and sophomoric.
While we’re on the topic of silliness: It shouldn’t have needed spelling out, but “refrain from referring to minorities as ‘subgroups,’” should now head every single GOP strategy memo.
In May, Kim Strassel wrote in the Wall Street Journal about a report entitled “2016 Election Principles.” Despite having been drafted by Newt Gingrich, who recently alienated minorities and all who believe in freedom of religion with his comment that Muslims who believe in the tenets of Sharia should be deported, the document has some nuggets of wisdom concerning how to engage minority voters.
Indeed, Strassel explained, the report “narrates the 2014 counterexamples of Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, and Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, who won stunning victories in states they were expected to lose.” These wins came about through strategically inclusive campaigning. “The merit of an inclusionary campaign,” Strassel elaborated, “is that it positions the Republican to interact with minority communities on a host of issues. Some of these—the economy, jobs, education, health care, energy—may prove more persuasive than flashpoint cultural divides.”
And as Theodore Johnson observed in the Atlantic, “there’s nothing exotic about black people who believe in free markets and small government, who oppose abortion, same-sex marriage, or affirmative action, whose views on immigration and foreign policy are imbued with a strong security-first mindset.”
And speaking at the convention, Darryl Glenn shattered the image of a homogeneous black community when he said of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, “they don’t speak for black America, and they don’t speak for me.” While it’s possible this affirmation will not reach all voters, it resonated powerfully in the hall.
So before we let Democrats make the case that minority and GOP values are at odds with each other, we must point out that the emperor has no clothes. This will only get increasingly difficult as the party begins to embrace its nominee. Thus, it is incumbent upon conservatives to reassure the nation that Steve and Donald alike are more court jester than King.
It’s at least comforting to note—as evidenced by Melania’s plagiarized speech— that the Trump family clearly disagrees with King about the contributions of the “subgroups.”