Iowa’s Republican Rep. Steve King has always been a controversial figure, a condition he earned as a result of his penchant for saying controversial things. The supposed toxicity of associating with him, however, has been absurdly overstated by members of the political press who are happy to help King cast himself as the standard-bearer for the GOP’s most conservative wing. Few in the press find Democratic politicians associating with the ethically-challenged Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) or Maxine Waters (D-CA) equally problematic for their party’s presidential aspirants.
There is no doubt, however, that King’s tendency to eschew diplomatic language when talking about issues relating to illegal immigration has made him a lightning rod for the press. That alone makes him a figure of some relevance for the GOP’s eventual 2016 presidential nominee who will resume the work of rebranding the party so as to increase its appeal to minority voters. The scale of the fracas that erupted over Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) alleged decision to accept an invitation to speak at a white nationalist conference in 2002, an accusation which is now in doubt and subsequently no longer enjoys saturation coverage on cable news, is testament to the scope of the challenge facing Republicans.
The media yields to the preconception that Republicans, particularly those of the Southern variety, are tainted by their party’s racial politics. In the same way that the University of Virginia “gang rape” fable appealed to the media’s biases regarding fraternity culture, the male libido, and Southern colleges, the press defaulted to a position of credulity with regards to the Scalise tale because it conformed to their already fixed prejudices (including my own). Like it or not, Republicans have to overcome the narrative propagated by a gullible and unhelpful press that their party is unfriendly to minorities in order to form the coalition of voters they need to win back the White House.
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