Rep. Steve King
Rep. Steve King (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Republicans have come down hard and swift on Rep. Steve King for remarks he made to The New York Times questioning why white supremacists and white nationalists are considered offensive. Party leaders stripped his committee memberships, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested the Iowa Congressman “find another line of work.”

How rich is that?

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Where were Republicans all the other times Mr. King has spewed similar rhetoric? The list is long. Most recently he refused to remove a retweet of a post by author Mark Collett, who has called himself a Nazi sympathizer. Mr. King apologized for his comments as the House voted on a resolution to condemn his language. He also said he would vote on the resolution. Funny, he wasn’t apologetic a few days ago.

House votes 416-1 to rebuke Steve King's comments on white supremacy; Illinois' Bobby Rush lone no vote

The House has approved a Democratic measure disapproving of Republican Rep. Steve King's comments about white supremacy.

Where were Republicans’ cries of outrage as candidates across the country ran under the party banner on campaigns that openly espoused racist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigration views? Remember in the fall when Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi said about a supporter: "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." Silence from Republicans. (She won her election too.)

And in the most glaring show of hypocrisy by the GOP, party members have stood by and said nothing as President Donald Trump has shown time and time again his penchant for racially inflammatory comments. Just this week he insulted Native Americans with a insensitive tweet aimed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has started an exploratory committee for a presidential run in 2020. “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash,” he said, trivializing a massacre of innocent Native American women and children and using a flippant and offensive nickname for Ms. Warren.

Mr. Trump has made racism acceptable and emboldened those who want to express it. The Republican Party has been complicit by allowing it to happen.

The number of hate crimes spiked 17 percent in 2017, the FBI has reported. And the agency’s statistics, though the most comprehensive, don’t capture all of the crimes and likely underestimate the incidents. The problem could actually be much worse than we think it is. This is an era where klansmen like David Duke have come back into play and groups like the “proud boys” feel free to attack people of color in the streets. Former Hampden resident James Jackson told police he randomly stabbed a black man in New York in 2017 because he wanted to target black men in interracial relationships.

We don’t know why the GOP is suddenly going after Mr. King with such gusto. Maybe he is an easy target because his racist record is so long. Or perhaps they realize appealing to a base that so overtly embraces these views isn’t a good long-term political strategy in a country that’s increasingly becoming more diverse. Maybe it’s a distraction from the federal government shutdown.

Whatever the reason, Mr. King needs to go. There is no place in Congress for his views. But even if he does develop a conscience and resign, his party is far from being off the hook. Until they stand up to the elephant in the room — Mr. Trump — their words mean nothing and their actions against Mr. King are just a show.

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