The Slatest

So Is Rep. Steve King a White Nationalist or What?

On Monday morning Rep. Steve King was invited onto CNN to explain a Sunday tweet that seemed to evince support for white nationalism. “[Dutch Islamophobe and nationalist Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” he wrote. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Surely, CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked, he couldn’t have meant what he said?

Well, of course I meant exactly what I said as is always the case. And to expand on that a little further, I’ve been to Europe and I’ve spoken on this issue and I’ve said the same thing as far as ten years ago to the German people and any population of people that is a declining population that isn’t willing to have enough babies to reproduce themselves. And I’ve said to them, “You can’t rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies. You’ve got to keep your birth rate up and that you need to teach your children your values. And in doing so, then you can grow your population and you can strengthen your culture, and strengthen your way of life. That’s not happening in any of the western European countries.

This is, straightforwardly, an argument that nonwhite immigration and procreation is a worrisome threat to both Europe’s existing ethnocultural composition and European civilization. “We need to get our birth rates up,” King said, “or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half century or more.” When pressed by Cuomo to address whether this comment squared with America’s conception of itself as a melting pot, King tried to clarify:

Chris, we’re a country here that if you take a picture of what America looks like, you can do it in a football stadium or a basketball court and you see all kinds of different Americans there. We’re pretty proud of that, the different looking Americans that are still Americans. There’s an American culture, American civilization. It’s raised within these children in these American homes. That’s one of the reasons why we require that the president of the United States be raised with an American experience. But we’ve also aborted nearly 60 million babies in this country since 1973. And there’s been this effort to say we’re going to have to replace that void with somebody else’s babies. That’s the push to bring in much illegal immigration into America, living in enclaves, refusing to assimilate into the American culture and civilization.

“[I]f you go down the road a few generations or maybe centuries with the intermarriage,” King went on to say later, “I’d like to see an America that’s just so homogenous that we all look a lot the same from that perspective. I think there’s far too much focus on race, especially in the last eight years.”

What does all of this mean? Well, for starters, King is making a case for at least a kind of cultural nationalism premised on the notion that nonwhite immigrants from outside the West are culturally deficient by the West’s standards. He never says nonwhite over the course of the interview, but white emigrés raised outside the West have never been what Wilders and King by extension are talking about. He can pretend this is not about race by claiming to be pro-miscengenation—and in fact, later in the interview he says “it’s the culture” that he’s talking about, “not the blood”—but King leaves the door open for explicit racism at the end of the interview. “Individuals will contribute differently, not equally to this civilization and society,” he told Cuomo. “Certain groups of people will do more from a productive side than other groups of people will. That’s just a statistical fact.”

If you can go anywhere in the world and adopt these little babies and put them in households already assimilated in America, those babies will grow up as American as any other baby with as much patriotism and love of country as any other baby. It’s not about race. It’s never been about race. And, in fact, the struggles across this planet, we describe them as race, they’re not race. They’re culture-based. It’s a clash of cultures, not the race. And sometimes that race is used as an identifier.

In other words, “it’s not about race,” but race is often used as proxy for the judgement and exclusion of certain cultures. If Steve King were ever placed in a position to do anything about these supposed problems, it is safe to assume that he, too, would use race as a proxy, absent other ways of deeply assessing the internally held cultural values of different peoples.

This would be bigotry. It would be bigotry of the kind unapologetic white supremacists might quibble with, but it would be bigotry nonetheless. On Sunday, white nationalist and alt-right figure Richard Spencer applauded King’s original comments. “Many people seem to imagine that we could just find a black African, dress him up in a Harris tweed vest, or give him a pipe and some snuff or maybe a bowler cap, and he’ll become an Englishman, or something like that” he said in a video. “Steve King is not doing that.” On that basic point, the unsuitability of certain nonwhite peoples for the West and our country, King and Spencer are in agreement.