Is enough ever enough?

Earlier this month, Congressman Steve King won the Republican primary for his seat with an astounding 74 percent of the votes cast. Since then, he’s celebrated the big victory by sharing the views of a European neo-Nazi on social media, downplaying the conditions at child detention facilities and telling a radio interviewer that he doesn’t want Muslims packing his meat. Like John Gotti or Tony Montana, the guy really just can’t seem to help himself: the harebrained takes are just who he is. 


Arguing that the ideological views King and his political pal Donald Trump harbor are wildly misguided and dangerous has proven an ineffective strategy because they ignore an important truth: no matter what a lot of people say publicly, they appreciate the bold culture warrior mentality and take-no-prisoners attitude. They’re straight shooters, and that’s what really matters at the end of the day.


I can understand that, even if I don’t agree with it. Social justice liberals, in their quest to push “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” norms on “King of the Hill” country, alienated a few people along the way, and the resulting resentment in areas like this one, endlessly profiled with redundant photos of old guys sitting around drinking coffee in the Times, the Post, and all the rest of the big Fake News media outlets, is a direct byproduct of that phenomenon.


The 2016 election was as much a visceral reaction to Hillary Clinton and everything she represents as it was a ringing endorsement of the policies—whatever they are this week—of Donald Trump. The Democrats could hardly have nominated a worse candidate considering the national mood.


But from a practical standpoint, can Iowa afford these bold, fresh ideas for much longer? While Trump’s favorite talking point is the booming economy (and you have to give him credit, because overall, it is in pretty good shape), his unprovoked trade war has tanked commodity markets and restricted access to international partners while EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has diminished the stature of ethanol to prop up his favored energy sources, crude oil and natural gas. These are facts, and despite the president’s repeated efforts to reassure farmers, we don’t seem to be any closer to a real solution.


Pork and soybeans, two of Iowa’s most valuable exports, are pawns in the U.S.-China conflict, and now King, whose district includes at least four major meatpacking plants, says he doesn’t want Muslims handling his bacon despite the reality that less than one percent of the industry’s workers here are followers of Islam. The seemingly unprompted comment followed the typical Steve King outrage cycle: “Wait, did I read that right? Oh yeah, it’s Steve King,” widespread condemnation on the Internet, demands for an apology and… nothing. In the end, nothing ever happens.


As shocking as it may sound, I sympathize with conservatives, whether they’re embarrassed by Steve King or not: should they really be expected to vote for an unabashed liberal who supports a $15 minimum wage and socialized medicine? JD Scholten is a nice guy with a big heart, but from my experience, his values simply don’t align with a large swath of the electorate around here. He’d still be preferable to King, but then again, so would Elmer Fudd. Third party challengers have largely proven themselves useless, so the people of the fourth district are stuck choosing between two extremes.


Nevertheless, something has to change. King long ago abandoned meaningful constituent politics in favor of brazen anti-Muslim, anti-migrant vitriol, and no matter what he and Joni Ernst say, they don’t have the ear of the president. Trump will always act on his own ego first, and the concerns of his allies are secondary if they conflict with what he wants—specifically, if they’re caught in the crossfire of a trade dispute that could drag on for years.


The culture war debates amount to a dog chasing its tail, and no one ever wins: you either believe that football players should stand for the anthem and memorize all of the verses of “America, the Beautiful,” or you don’t. You either believe that stopping illegal immigration at all costs should be the ultimate goal of the federal government—no matter what happens to the kids involved—or you don’t. And you either drag yourself into every little squabble, a la Sarah Sanders being forced out of a Virginia restaurant and the ensuing Yelp wars, or you don’t.


Maybe it’s time to view the whole thing from a new vantage point. What has Steve King done for us lately?