Steve King Broke the First Rule of Fight Club

Political figures from all over the spectrum have been piling on Iowa Republican Steve King for his defense of white nationalism. Their dignified umbrage produced a House Resolution condemning his statements which passed on a nearly unanimous vote. Nearly, but not quite.

All your favorite GOP nutjobs supported this resolution. Wisconsin’s Glenn Grothman, famous for his complaints about the MLK holiday and his bigoted comments on women, was a yes. Matt Gaetz and Louis Gohmert supported it. Even Steve King himself voted for this resolution rejecting his own statements.

The lone holdout was former Black Panther and Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush who explained that the resolution was “not worth the paper it was written on.” He’s right. If this resolution had been a meaningful step away from white nationalism, Republicans would have fought it.

Why are Republicans so eager to punish Rep. Steve King? In the Trump Era, establishment Republicans are struggling to keep their noisy racists in line. King’s crude, counter-productive embrace of racist rhetoric is a breach of decorum with dangerous implications. Steve King violated the first rule of Fight Club.

As Ta Nehisi Coates once pointed out, “there are no racists in America.” Racism, as an idea, is ugly, unpopular and objectively dumb. No one embraces it openly, not David Duke or George Wallace, not even most Confederate leaders. Racism survives through obfuscation, subterfuge and coded rhetoric. White nationalism, the political and social system that racism produced, persists mostly through neglect, nurtured by silence, and enforced when necessary by concealed violence. Civility is crucial to preserving white nationalism.

Crude, angry racists are shadow partners in the preservation of white nationalism, but they are supposed to keep their hoods on. An ironic upside of the Trump Era is the breakdown it has triggered in the white nationalist order. A system tuned by centuries of social evolution is being shaken by an undisciplined white rabble, distrustful of their more affluent friends and family and terrified of being left behind in a dawning post-racial order. Their embrace of a clamoring, unrepentant racism threatens to expose the ugly infrastructure of white nationalism, an all-or-nothing gamble almost guaranteed to fail. Wealthy, privileged white Republicans in Congress are fighting to get these people back in their robes and out of the daylight before they endanger all that white America has struggled to accumulate.

No one need bear the slightest overt racial animosity to maintain our racist order. All that’s needed to preserve white nationalism is indifference. Avoiding “racially-charged language” is a luxury whites can now afford. White nationalism can continue as a fact without anyone acknowledging its existence.

Trump voters often describe their candidate, who lies even when lying isn’t necessary, as a refreshing truth-teller. They are responding to the willingness of men like Trump and King to express their racism openly in defiance of polite convention. Trading their hoods for bright red hats, Trump voters are fighting to bring racism back into the daylight. They don’t realize how much power they have already lost, or the scale of the backlash they have triggered.

Affluent Republicans aren’t particularly bothered by black people being allowed to go to school, play professional sports, or even intermarry. What polite, genteel Republicans care about now are the privileges accumulated over centuries as a consequence of racism. They’ll condemn Steve King for making racist comments, then pass a raft of legislation designed to loot black families. The First Rule of Fight Club is don’t talk about Fight Club. Silence on matters of race is a value that earned the votes of every Republican Congressman, including Steve King himself.

You can’t say the n-word in public, but the same neighborhoods redlined out of access to capital a century ago are still redlined out of access to capital today, and for the same reasons. The machine still works.

Steve King’s reckless candor is a threat to white nationalism. His values are central to the modern Republican Party, but those values are meant to hide behind a veneer of respectability. Steve King is not being punished by Republicans for his bigotry, he’s being punished for taking off his hood.


  1. I spoke too soon. Trump folded. He just tweeted that he’ll deliver the SOTU on some other date after the shutdown ends. He even said “no venue can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber.”

    Wow. Wonder who finally got to him…

    1. I am thrilled that the puppet tyrant folded. Shocked, and thrilled, but as you and others have said, his hand was a tad “weak”.

      Even me, the eternal pessimist, wonders what other things he will end up folding on, now that the Dem’s showed some spine.

      MLK had a dream. So do I: Mine is he is doing the SOTU in the Capital, when DoJ, FBI, and Homeland security agents rush the podium and arrest him on national television.

      I can’t really envision a situation for my fantasy, but hey, why not.

  2. I know we are into that now hackneyed term of “unprecedented territory”, but what exactly are the rules now that the puppet tyrant is not taking no for an answer and plans in 6 days of doing the SOTU at the Capitol, even though his invite has been rescinded?

    Does he get to arbitrarily command both houses to convene on the 29th?
    Can the Capital security shoot him as an intruder?

    Can Pelosi shut him down?

    1. My understanding is that if they really wanted to, they could use the House Seargant-At-Arms to bar the door and prevent him from entering. But I doubt she would do that.

      Most likely, if he persists, she won’t bar him and the other Republicans from entering. But she controls the lights, the cameras, and the microphones. Which means Donny could be talking in the dark to a half-empty room with no broadcasting outside of the House floor. (Network TVs need permission from the House staff to place their cameras on the floor).

      Meanwhile, if she really wants to twist the knife further (which I’d wholeheartedly support :-), she can create a new tradition of the Speaker giving a “State of The Union” Address, from her own office, which would be fully televised.

      This yet again shows how bad a negotiator Trump is. I never bought his whole “Art of the Deal” BS persona, but I’m seriously wondering how he managed to avoid being destitute and homeless with his negotiating skills. The first step of negotiation is to fully understand the bargaining position of each person at the table. And if you realize you do not have any leverage, you decline the fight. Pelosi has 100% of the leverage here. He is literally a guest in *her* House. He should have realized that, and simply made plans to address the country from his own oval office. He could have even spun that as a “win”, a way to do an end-run around Pelosi. But now, he’s upping the stakes in this petty game when everyone knows he’s going to lose. It’s worse than bluffing a bad hand in poker. This is insisting on doubling your bet after everyone’s flipped their cards and everyone can see you’ve lost the hand.

      1. How trump avoided being destitute was being born into wealth and then stiffing as many people as he could to protect his own dwindling resources. That and possibly some deeply unethical operations that gave him a line of credit….which has come due.

        I like your suggestion about Pelosi giving SOTU. As for why he played this so poorly? He is the consumate bully – he thinks he can win through intimidation. I applaud Pelosi for standing strong on this. My opinion of her is much higher than it was before.

        Trump has never been honorable. He lied about his bone spurs; he lied about his infidelities; he is a selfish, mean person. People of NY know him best. They don’t like him unless they’re “like him”.

      2. Right, but even with inheriting his money, etc. He is such a stunningly poor negotiator that he surely would have lost all of his money by now. He literally seems like someone who could be tricked out of his lunch money by a street hustler playing 3 card monte.

        Like I said, I always thought he was an idiot, but now, I’m not sure if he’s able to tie his own shoelaces every morning, or if maybe Melania does it for him.

        This isn’t a case of overplaying his hand. It’s a case of not having a hand, knowing your opponent has pocket aces, and still going all in. *after* the river. Not even a newbie playing his first hand of poker makes a mistake like that.

        I anxiously await what Pelosi has in store for next week. I sincerely hope Trump escalates this into another do-or-die battle for his base. Because he’ll lose. And unlike the govt shutdown, he can’t drag it on for months hoping to be saved somehow. This battle will be ending in 6 days and we’ll see who’s left standing.

      1. Yeah, ironically (or perhaps presciently), the Founding Fathers were very wary about an imperial President intimidating Congress, and so made it very clear that Congress and its offices are a protected safe haven, and most certainly not under the purview of the President or anyone else. They have their own police force, and even their own jail (sadly, it’s not in the Congressional building itself :-).

        Trump may soon get a lesson on why the Constitution considered Congress the *first* branch of government…

  3. Off Topic! Was watching CNN this norning. they had on an attorney discussing Rudy Guilianni’s disclosures on TV yesterday, that Trump was negotiating with Russia for the Moscow Trump building right up to the election, possibly later! I do not want to put too fine a point on this, but isn’t a politician who is making decisions on international issues while negotiating a multi hundred million $ deal with the country he is releasing from sanctions, and he goes out of his way to not disclose said negotiations, as in “I have nothing to do with Russia! I have no business with Russia!”, isn’t that illegal?
    Thank God the GOP is all over this:-)))!

  4. Time offers a speech by Martin Luther King that is not as well known as his “I have a dream “, but is highly relevent to the moral issues of today. In a speech on the Vietnam War, King takes direct aim at what happens to a nation and its people who engage in actions that damage the core values of a nation. It distorts commitment to care for one another and justifies decisions to deny services that benefit the poor, sick and elderly. Selfish indifference guides America today but we shouldn’t be surprised. King warned 51 years ago this would happen.

  5. EJ

    Meanwhile, we have reached the stage where people are being sent to prison for giving basic humanitarian aid to those who are being rounded up for concentration camps. From The Intercept:

    “Scott Warren, a 36-year-old academic, faces 20 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to consecutive terms for providing food, water, and a place to sleep to two undocumented men over three days last January.”

    1. It’s odd that religious groups who are helping undocumented people are not being targeted. Why? Once again, go after the low hanging fruit and ignore a sector that on whole, delivers votes..

      There is no honor, plan, nor consistency in this debacle. Making it up as they go ignores the underlying immigration problem but serves the immediate purpose of fomenting fear and hate. Why solve a problem that is paying off so well?

      1. EJ

        Thanks Mary. I think I need to clarify.

        Time magazine has a splash screen which announces that they would like to do things with my private data which are very illegal in Europe. In order for me to use their site they require me to agree to them doing whatever they like, without allowing me my rights to know what they’re doing and to opt out of specific parts of it. Such splash screens are colloquially known as “GDPR walls” after the European law which governs these rights.

        It is my understanding that there are test court cases currently pending which will rule on whether GDPR walls are legal (many scholars have opined that they are very illegal inded.) In the meantime, I belong to the school of thought which says that such websites are being run unethically, and therefore I choose not to use them at all, through any device or in any venue.

        It’s interesting to see which websites behave ethically and which don’t. It’s often not the ones you’d expect.

  6. I have been quite the gadfly with my friends, family and church. They will not rest easy in their racism with me around. Like an alcoholic until you face you have a problem you cannot change. I hate the inane but I have a black friend nonsense. I tell those people I am a recovering bigot how about you. As a greyheaded old man the only opinion I care about is Jesus’s opinion. If I align with Him but run counter to the world I am good. In modern Western civilization almost all major social changes start in the Church. Right now there is a struggle to obey the Gospel or support political power for a wealthy few in the Church. This play has run before in history. I would place my bet on the Gospel winning out.

    1. Separation of church and state is important. It “used” to be the law. In 2017 Kentucky passed a law that allows public funds to be utilized to teach Bible classes in public schools. Watchdog groups are “watching” to make sure they don’t cross any further over the line, but now we have similar legislation proposed in Florida and North Dakota.

      The fight continues.

  7. Here’s an illuminating story from WaPo, a Trump backer who doesn’t get why so many people think Trump is a rotten person:

    I guess the reporter was just in record his words without question mode. I wish that deluded fool had had to justify his ignorance in light of all the small contractors stiffed. Or women assualted. Or Black people discriminated against. Or the widow who had to fight off his abuse of eminent domain to keep her property. Or how he threatened to cut off funds for medical care for a critically ill great nephew during a legal fight over his father’s estate. Or his charity being a scam and stealing from cancer stricken children. Or Trump U. I could go on for much longer.

  8. This article clearly articulates the red hat syndrome so prevalent today. I had to nod in agreement with the final paragraph: taking off his hood is the real sin. However, he has been doing it forever. This is not new behavior. And, the resolution means nothing in the scheme of things. Nothing. Especially when young people raised in a “Christian” community attending a “Christian” school taunt and and try to intimidate a Native Indigenous Person with calls for Build the Wall. Mr Nathan responded with stoicism and truth. I feel these young men have been betrayed by their own elders and teachers. This kind of disregard for the “other” is taught and endorsed by the the commune. It does not appear out of no where. We no longer live in caves and fear the dark. Or, do we?

    The worse it gets, the worse it is. All I know: my own grandchildren are not like this because of their village is not teaching fear and hate.

      1. Yes. Take responsibility for your actions. These teens were in DC to express their views about abortion. That is their right. What is unspeakable is to exercise one’s right and threaten and taunt another for doing the same in behalf of his views. Their parents should be ashamed, but likely won’t be, but these kids can not hide behind their parents. They chose these reprehensible actions. They get full credit.

  9. I said it earlier this week and I will repeat it because it is true: Steve King is a racist A-hole, has always been one, and is probably the only honest republican in Congress. Those of us who have watch the evolution of the republican party from just snobs to openly racist snobs, are not surprised, merely saddened that innocent people like Mr. Phillips are bearing society’s burden for the ugliness around us. Yet, trump is hailed for his “honesty”.

    Like many, I have seen this in my own family. We are watching the core moral values of our country be ripped apart and our personal relationships damaged. We are drifting apart as families and as a people who used to care about one another. Who understood common sacrifice and respect for others. Who now take pleasure in taunting an old man in public, wearing a MAGA hat. Our young. How incredibly sad and stupid. Mom and dad, take a bow. This is what you are teaching your MAGA young.

      1. Her little darling was harassing women earlier in the day, calling them sluts and whores. My question is where were the chaperones while they doing this? At the bar? The hotel buggering teen boys?

    1. I’m afraid Mary we are seeing the core values of our country with this incident. Genocide of indigenous people dubious wars with Spain and Mexico. Internment of Japanese and of course the original sin of slavery and Jim Crow.

      I do believe they represent a minority view today but due to the structure of our constitution to accommodate their views in our original documents we will be living like this for a long time…even if a Democrat wins in 2020.

  10. Watching the video of the smug little POS in the MAGA hat getting in the face of a Native American war veteran while his friends chanted “build that wall” did serious damage to my blood pressure. Why part of they were here first did his teachers not explain to him!

    1. The world saw this smug young man with his smirk, raucously supported by other young people. He was not alone in his taunting. Apparently, catholic schools in KY need to beef up their religion course. He didn’t get to this point on his own. His parents and his community aided him in his march into insolence and disrespect for others. I wonder if he and his fellow students are feeling as confident and proud today with headlines denouncing their purile actions as they did while they bullied this lone, older Indian man. This is what trump and his party have showed the world. It makes me ashamed for America but resolved to stamp out people like this. I will not be indifferent. The only value in what happened yesterday is it exposes how our too many of our young people are being brought up in America to perpetuate racism. When your base is shrinking you’ve got to protect your “seed corn”, right?

      I don’t know what, if any, consequences will face this young fool and his cheering cohorts, but I do know this: Nathan Phillips achieved so much more than these young fools. His bravery, stoicism in the face of a mob, and quiet dignity is what the world saw. McConnell can make all the face-saving votes he wants, Phillips is the real deal, and people know this.

      1. “Apparently, catholic schools in KY need to beef up their religion course.”

        No Mary…religion is one of the main foundations that the evil that man does is built upon. A better use for that catholic school, or any religious school, is for kindling, or better, a homeless shelter, or a public library.

        Funny how all muslim religious schools in muslim countries are apparently just a front for recruiting extremists, but any “christian” religious school is just an outlet of freedom of religion and expression as part of the Constitution. A pox on all their houses.

        These extremely well-heeled little monsters from Kentuckystan are all well-protected from any kind of retribution, because they are destined to live a wonderful life where their kind pull all the strings.

        That is, unless, powerful, just, moral people say “enough” and actively move to obliterate their positions of power, by any means necessary.

      2. Well-heeled, indeed. From a twitter post:


        Of course, just “saying it” doesn’t make it so and I don’t have the inclination to fact-check the tweet, but here it is.

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