Steve King—noted racist, Confederate flag aficionado, and occasional rape and incest apologist—was defeated by Republican challenger Randy Feenstra on Tuesday, a humiliating loss that confirmed his status as congressional pariah.
The right-wing representative, who has served in Congress since 2003, has made a name for himself as perhaps the most openly bigoted member of the GOP caucus; he has made comments about the supposed superiority of white culture, spouted dangerous and dehumanizing rhetoric about immigrants, and even, stunningly, met with an Austrian political party with neo-Nazi ties on the dime of a Holocaust memorial group. For a long time, these transgressions got him slaps on the wrists from the GOP. But he appeared to have missed a key part of the playbook for this incarnation of the Republican party: Only Donald Trump is allowed to say the quiet part out loud.
King finally wore out his welcome last year, when he casually outlined his racist worldview to the New York Times. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” he said at one point in the interview. GOP leaders came down hard on the Iowa congressman, stripping him of his committee assignments and all but exiling him from the party. Though King was clearly imperiled heading into Tuesday’s primary, despite a handful of conservative challengers who threatened to cancel one another out, Republican leaders—including Trump—offered him no support and in many cases mobilized for Feenstra, his leading opponent.
The Republican opposition to King, of course, had nothing to do with the substance of his politics; Feenstra, like King’s other primary opponents, is also a right-wing conservative with a deep allegiance to Trump. His campaign against King was not based on political differences, but on the efficacy of a representative who has had much of his authority and responsibilities taken away by his own party. King’s views and agenda still have a home there in Iowa. It’s just that expressing them as he did, without any rhetori