Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Republicans in Iowa and Mississippi receive Scriber's first What-is-wrong-with-you award

A friend if mine, when confronted with some kind of “Duh!”, frequently asks “What is wrong with you?” During this election season I found myself asking that so many times that I decided to create a What-is-wrong-with-you award. Today I present a couple of nominees to you with my designation of a front-runner.

Iowa Rep. Steve King is the inaugural winner of the award. The Huffington Post tells us why he so deserves it in How Rep. Steve King Almost Lost The white supremacist congressman usually wins re-election in Iowa by over 20 percentage points. This time he won by 3. What changed?

One thing was that he had an effective challenger in J. D. Scholten. Read on.

King is arguably the most bigoted member of Congress. For years, he’s parroted and promoted the propaganda of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, and openly associated with fascist and far-right figures at home and overseas. “Diversity is not our strength,” he once wrote in a tweet.

King has never denied being a white nationalist. On Oct. 21 he even appeared to defend the term itself, telling a local TV host that, although “white nationalist” is “a derogatory term today, I wouldn’t have thought so maybe a year, or two or three ago.”

Yet on election night, over 159,000 people in Iowa voted for King anyway. And although there are multiple reasons for why King keeps winning here — including racism, name recognition, party loyalty and issues like abortion rights — it’s maybe more instructive to consider why King came so close to losing this time.

There are 70,000 more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. President Donald Trump beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton here by 27 points. That Scholten came within 3 points, or about 10,000 votes, of King is remarkable and shows he garnered support from Republicans.

King had managed to espouse all this nonsense [antisemitic conspiracy theories] with little political consequence until late October, when the massacre of 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue by a white nationalist brought King’s own white nationalism under heightened scrutiny. Two days after the shooting, the polling firm Change Research published a poll showing King leading Scholten by only 1 percentage point.

… it’s hard to say how many voters abandoned King because of his bigotry. When King spoke at Gov. Reynolds’ rally Monday night, he wasn’t interrupted by a heckler calling him a racist. He was interrupted by a 44-year-old farmer, Dolf Ivener, upset over the price of soybeans.

“$7.50 for soybeans, I’m going to go broke because of you, Steve King!” Ivener yelled, before being escorted out of the rally. “I’m going to go broke because of you.”

Trump’s trade war with China, which King supports, has taken a real toll on farmers here. China bought 94 percent fewer soybeans this year from America than in 2017.

So King is complicit with Trump in screwing over his own base, the Iowa farmers.

Although Scholten was forceful in denouncing King’s bigotry on the campaign trail, he spent more time depicting King as an absent and ineffective representative.

It was a message that resonated with The Des Moines Register’s editorial board, which called its endorsement of Scholten “a no-brainer for any Iowan who has cringed at eight-term incumbent King’s increasing obsession with being a cultural provocateur.”

“In his almost 16 years in Congress, King has passed exactly one bill as primary sponsor, redesignating a post office,” the newspaper’s board wrote. “He won’t debate his opponent and rarely holds public town halls. Instead, he spends his time meeting with fascist leaders in Europe and retweeting neo-Nazis.”

For all these reasons, chiefly the election of a Nazi sympathizer who is clearly doing damage to his own state, I have to ask the 159,000 Iowans who voted for this goon:

What is wrong with you?

I was going to stop there but then I came across another contender for the award. So:

Here is a runner-up for Scriber’s What-is-wrong-with-you award: Laughing about Lynching is the feature story from Judd Legum at popular.info.

The next election is in 14 days.

On November 27, there will be a run-off for the special election in Mississippi for U.S. Senate. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) was appointed to the position in April 2018, when former Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) retired. The election will pit Hyde-Smith against Mike Espy, the former Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton. The winner will fill the remainder of Cochran’s term, which runs through 2020.

It was expected to be a cakewalk for Hyde-Smith – and still might be. But the race was thrust into the national spotlight when a video emerged on Sunday of Hyde-Smith discussing her willingness to attend a lynching.

“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith said on November 2.

The small crowd responded with laughs and applause.

Hyde-Smith issued a statement on Monday claiming the reference to a “public hanging” was a compliment directed at cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson and had no negative connotations.

In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.

Notably, she did not apologize.

Espy responds

Espy, who is seeking to become to the first black U.S. Senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction, released a scathing response to Hyde-Smith’s quip about lynching:

Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible. They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state.

The history of lynchings in Mississippi

Lynchings “often targeted black men accused of fraternizing with white women.” There were 581 recorded lynchings in Mississippi between 1882 and 1968, the most in any state.

Jason Morgan Ward, who wrote the book on lynchings in Mississippi, noted that the last “public hanging” in Hyde-Smith’s hometown of Brookhaven occurred in 1928.

A mob dragged brothers Stanley and James Bearden, two black men, from the county jail. The mob hung James from a tree and riddled his body with bullets. After making Stanley watch this, they dragged him behind a truck all the way back into town. The men had been jailed after an altercation with a white man…whom they owed six dollars.

“Cracking jokes about [a public hanging] doesn’t mean you’re blissfully ignorant of a distant past, it just means you can’t own up to a history that will not hide,” Ward said.

It is instructive that no Republican elected official has taken exception to Hyde-Smith’s remark. Equally instructive is the active support granted to Hyde-Smith by the Republican governor of Mississippi.

To Hyde-Smith, her laughing audience, and Governor Phil Bryant, I’ve got to ask:

What is wrong with you?

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