In the summer of 1989 I had the honor of winning a National Endowment grant to study Middlemarch. It was a good news/bad news scenario: the bad news was I got to spend a week in DesMoines, Iowa.
The joke, it turns out, was a hollow one: DesMoines was a wonderful, progressive, thriving city full of generous citizens, cosmopolitan ideas, and progressive attitudes. It published one of our nation’s greatest newspapers and provided endless citizen-friendly opportunities. Better still, 1989 was the year of Field of Dreams—it was Iowa’s year.
It isn’t anymore. Now Iowa is associated with Republican senator and first-rate bigot Steve King, whose defiant racism stretches our increasingly resilient limits of credulity. To wit: this past weekend, while praising Dutch politician Geert Wilders (Wilders wants to close his country to Muslims whom he calls scum) King tweeted
Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.
King apparently believes that because so many babies have been aborted since 1973, we have allowed our country to be repopulated with people who do not understand the “American experience” and that eventually all these “somebody else’s babies” will fortify their enclaves and refuse to be assimilated into the American experience. (I probably don’t have to mention that King’s American experience is white Christian with no allowances made for those outside those parameters.)
The plan, in short, is to make life unbearable for unauthorized immigrants, and if the legal ones get hurt in the process, well it’s not as if they’re Americans!
In ordinary times statements as outlandish, ignorant, and embarrassing as King’s would be universally decried, but ordinary times came to an end last November; and though many Republicans have distanced themselves from King’s lunacy, the White House has been silent. And why not? Steve King is merely echoing the white nationalism of Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions, and the more subtle call to arms of Trump himself.
Today is critical. The Dutch nationalist Wilders has been leading in the Netherlands’ pre-election polls, and a victory would lend more support to a disturbing worldwide nationalism, especially in a historically liberal country like the Netherlands. We can only hope that the Dutch will not be conned by an appeal to their worst instincts, the way we were last November.