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Charles Ellison and Steve Jaxon on Steve King

Veteran political reporter and Drive Hall of Famer Charles Ellison came back on The Drive with Steve Jaxon on Tuesday to discuss the political atmosphere in light of recent comments made by Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) regarding race, ethnicity and what it means to be American and to contribute to American society. For more from Charles Ellison, follow his Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/ellisonreport.


Steve Jaxon:
Our next guest is a veteran political strategist, Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, contributing editor at TheRoot.com and he writes for a bunch of different publications and websites, and he’s also a Drive Hall of Famer and our dear friend, live in Washington, Mr. Charles Ellison. Charles, how are you bud?

charles ellison

Charles Ellison

Charles Ellison:
Steve, what’s good, how are you doing sir?

SJ:
I’m fine, I’ve got the springtime allergies kickin’ my ass but, you know, I’m used to it, so what the hell.

CE:
You got springtime allergies and we’ve got frozen roads out here on the east coast.

SJ:
It’s 80 degrees and sunny here.

CE:
Ah, enjoy those allergies, man. I’ll trade you for snowy, salted streets with slush, any time, for 80 degrees and allergies. There you go.

SJ:
Yes, I would prefer the allergies myself, so I don’t care, it’s all good. OK. Steve King, now this guy, and this worries me because it’s not just King but there have been one or two others who are tweeting and talking just racist crap and it’s like they feel emboldened now, and that’s what’s frightening. But talk about Steve King and what he had to say.

CE:
Right, you know, so Steve King, he’s been put on the spot about this, he’s been basically saying that white people have led the way in terms of contributions to Western civilization and everyone else is a subgroup. Really he’s been sort of expounding the thought at Muslim Americans aren’t really making contributions to Western civilization, to American society, and we don’t really need them... not only do we not need them making those contributions but we don’t need them breeding anymore. So this is basically sort of paraphrasing what he’s saying, ‘We don’t need more Muslims in America. We don’t need their communities or their families expanding.’ So, Steve King, not one to hold back, definitely, he’s been known to make very controversial, very racially tinged comments in the past. If you know Steve King, and so, this is par for the course for Steve King. But the way he has sort of doubled down on those comments in recent days, even going so far as to go on national TV to get into a very heated exchange with CNN’s Chris Cuomo about it, is very, that’s very different in a way for Steve King, even. And it really speaks to the times that we live in. And you’re absolutely right, Steve, you have folks in the political space who feel very emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. They feel that this is their climate, this is their environment, that ‘nothing can stop us now,’ that is sort of the mindset they’re in and it is very troubling.

SJ:
He actually said that Blacks and Hispanics will be fighting each other and then overtaking whites in the population. Good God!

Charles Ellison:
Right, right. It’s uh, Steve King, you know, once again, you have to look at his district as well. It’s the 4th congressional district, of Iowa. It’s 96% white. That’s not to say that all white people have that kind of mindset, or that all white people in Iowa’s 4th congressional district believe in what Steve King says. But at the end of the day, the 4th congressional district, they keep voting him in. I mean, he’s been there for quite a while. And so the lack of diversity, the very thin diversity, I mean, it’s barely a percentage point black, I mean it’s maybe barely 2.5% Latino in the 4th congressional district and that says a lot about what’s making Steve King feel comfortable enough as an elected official to say that. As someone who gets voted into office every two years, obviously he doesn’t feel threatened. And so that doesn’t just say a lot about Steve King. That says a lot about the district where he’s from.

SJ:
You know, I quoted him but I missed a word that is really telling. Let me quote exactly what he said. “I predict that Hispanics and the Blacks...”

CE:
...the blacks, right...

SJ:
“...will be fighting each other...” before, and then they’re going to be taking over the whites, something. And David Duke, KKK Grand Wizard said, “yeah, that’s great.”

CE:
And you know, it’s not surprising, and it hasn’t been surprising for quite some time. And it also speaks, too, Steve, to just this growing regionalism that we’ve been feeling for quite some time, just politics based on region and a lot of the hyper toxicity of politics based on where people are from, and in terms of the cultural mindset of certain regions and how really lack of diversity in certain parts of the country feeds into that.

And also, if you look more into that language there are a lot of rural versus urban divide in it. There are a lot of assumptions being made about, for example, blacks and Latinos, the sorts of communities that they live in, right? And we’re also having this big larger discussion, or at least the Trump administration has been pushing this larger narrative about violence in our major cities, and a lot of that narrative, when it’s visualized, includes people of color, as they say.

And so it definitely is going to continue to fester in our politics. I’m afraid that it’s going to get worse before it gets better, before people realize that it’s, um, well, I hope it doesn’t get to that point, but I mean, right now, at this rate, it will probably just get worse before people realize what’s happened and realize that before it’s too late.

SJ:
I think you’re right. And again, I’ll repeat, what scares me so much is the fact that these clowns feel emboldened by what’s going on right now and they’re going to keep talking like this until, something, I don’t know till when, what can be done at this point.

Charles Ellison:
And you know, a lot of it too has been this feeling for years that’s been bubbling for some time now, for generations, there’s a certain, as some of my colleagues called it, a certain white fragility that’s in it. A fear of a lot of the rapid demographic changes that have been taking place in our society particularly for the last 30 or 40 years, and not just the demographic changes, Steve, but also the political changes that have accompanied those changes. And so, Steve King and others just come from a political or cultural class that felt as if they weren’t, they weren’t adequately prepped for this, you know, for these changes.

And once again, that speaks to where Steve King is coming from. It’s Iowa. There’s not a whole lot of diversity going on in Iowa. There are pockets of it. Cities like Des Moines, right? Des Moines is probably the most diverse you get in Iowa. And them maybe you go to some universities in Iowa and you know, they’ve got small pockets of diverse populations. But you just have areas of the country that are like that. And you’ll see, you know, from elected officials like Steve King or other elected officials on, like, the state and federal level, they’ll make these outrageous comments and they’re coming from places, they’re coming from districts that are very isolated, from the current diverse, multi-cultural construct that we live in, that we all need to embrace.

SJ:
Yeah, that’s true. We have part of the clip, Chris Cuomo and Iowa Rep. Steve King, let’s play this.


CLIP:
Chris Cuomo: You’re entitled to your opinion about this, obviously. I just wanted to go back at this one more time, just ‘cause it’s that important. A Muslim American, an Italian American, a Christian American and a Jewish American, you do realize that they are all equal, right? They are all the same thing. We don’t need babies from one of those groups more than we need them from other groups. Do you agree with that?

Steve King: (pause) Well, I would say that it depends on the attitude within those families...”

Chris Cuomo: Why do you pause, on a question like that, Congressman? What do you mean? It doesn’t depend on any definition. You’re either an American or you’re not.”

Steve King: Because I want to give you an objective answer, Chris.

Chris Cuomo: Yeah, but either a Muslim American, an Italian American, an Irish, Scotch, German American, which is what your roots are, either those are all equal things, or they are not. What is your answer?

Steve King: They contribute differently to our culture and civilization. There are moderate Muslims that are equal to, in all these categories, that you described. There are others, Chris, that are teaching hatred in their families. If they’re assimilated, that’s what we want. I think they can assimilate.

Chris Cuomo: I said a Muslim American, people who have lived here, who are assimilated. But there are a lot of people teaching hatred who are Irish, who are Italian, who are Muslim, a lot of people teach hate. There’s hate in a lot of different groups. And I get that you have Muslim extremism and that there’s a concern in this country about it. But I asked you something else. These people are either all equal or they are not, in your view. A Muslim American, an Italian American, German American, like you, and your blood, your roots. They are either all equal or they are not, in your mind. What is the answer?

Steve King: I’d say they are all created equal in the image of God and they are equal in his eyes. And if they are citizens of the United States they are equal in the eyes of the law. Individuals will contribute differently, not equally, to this civilization and this society and certain groups of people will do more from a productive side than other groups of people will. That’s just a statistical fact. And so,

Chris Cuomo: But not as a function of race, it’s a function of opportunity and education. You’re not more likely than a Muslim American to contribute to American society. It’s about your education and your opportunity, not what your blood is.

Steve King: Chris, it’s the culture, it’s the culture, not the blood. And if you could go anywhere in the world and adopt these little babies and put them into households that were already assimilated into America, those babies will grow up as American as any other baby, with as much patriotism and as much love of country as any other baby.”


SJ:
The man is completely and totally, obviously, insane. And he predicts that Hispanics and “the blacks” are going to fight each other and take over the whites. I am really pissed off.

Charles Ellison:
Right.

SJ:
I didn’t hear all of that earlier today. This guy... something’s gotta happen.

Charles Ellison:
But notice once again, notice how comfortable he is, as an elected official, to say those types of things. I don’t know of any plans that Steve King might have in terms of relinquishing his seat in Congress, right? In fact, sometimes Steve King’s name comes up as a potential Senate candidate in Iowa. So, you know, it’s just that I think that’s one of those missing conversations in this too. He feels as if, to him, he feels he’s sort of the sort of noble midwesterner taking on the clueless New Yorker, or the elite New Yorker in Chris Cuomo, and the northeastern elitist establishment. And so, you know, he’s coming in there as some sort of cultural kind of Braveheart, if you will. And so, he’s probably back in Iowa in his district, you know, he’s probably getting cheered on. You know what I’m saying? He’s sitting back in the local diner talking about, “Yeah, I took on Chris Cuomo, did you see how I took him on?” You know, that guy and his New York values.

You remember Ted Cruz and his New York values comments? So, ironically, the leader of his party comes from New York. And in a sense, you know, kind of like, Ted Cruz made a little sense, in that Donald Trump is kind of as New York mogul big business values as you get. And that’s the head of the Republican Party. That’s someone that Steve King looks up to.

SJ:
Well, obviously, it’s the First Amendment, he has free speech rights and he can say whatever the hell he wants, but I hope to God that his district in Iowa in 2018, that they wake up. Come on! I mean, this isn’t about politics, this is about insanity, in my opinion.

CE:
Yeah, he’s in a good spot though, because, I mean, Republicans are in Congress, and so, you know, it’s a lot easier for him to somehow funnel resources to his district, because his people are in charge. It would be different if Democrats were in charge, for him, you know, obviously, so he’s feeling very emboldened right now.

SJ:
Yeah, exactly. Well, always a pleasure, my friend. Hopefully, it looks like we’re coming to New York in May, maybe we will take the train to DC and we can hook up again.

CE:
OK, OK, that’s good. You know, hopefully, we won’t be crisscrossing the country, at the same time ‘cause I’ll be in Seattle in early May for a conference. But we’ll figure it out.

SJ:
All right, my brother, thank you so much, it’s always a pleasure talking to you, political analyst Charles Ellison. Have a great week, bud!

Charles Ellison:
All right. You do the same, bro. Take care.
[•]

 

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