GOP Congressman Jason Smith—He Proudly Waves Representative Steve King’s Racist Torch January 27, 2019
After at least 17 years of uttering some of the most blatant racist/white supremacist statements, the GOP House leadership finally removed 9th term IA Republican Congressman Steve King (69) from his congressional posts on the powerhouse Agriculture and Judiciary Committees (nytimes.com, 1/4/19, Gabriel, Martin, & Fandos, nytimes.com Gabriel, 1/15/19). This action was then followed on 1/15/2019 by a 424-1 “resolution of disapproval.” This disapproval resolution was not brought by GOPers themselves but by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC). This measure was not as strong as a formal censure, because “Team Red” would, obviously, not have gone along with that (See nytimes.com, Herndon, 1/15/19). To paraphrase Joe Biden, “the GOP’s actions are no ‘BFD.’” The move against King only occurred, IMHO, because the Democrats took back the House with a “y uu ge” 40-seat flip in the 11/2018 midterms. King himself barely won in 2018, beating a Democratic opponent in his heavily-tilted GOP seat (Cook PVI R+11) by just over 3 points (CQ Early Guide 116th Congress). He had previously won most of his election campaigns by an average of 25 points. Frankly, this belated GOP “rebuke” of King is meaningless. King made the “major” mistake of publicly bragging once too often about white supremacy. He forgot the lesson “Southern Strategist” Lee Atwater promoted, “Don’t say the ‘N’ word or other similar epithets out loud. Speak about such matters in ‘coded’ terms.” The GOP actions against Cong. King equal pure hypocrisy. GOPers can’t renounce the majority of their racist supporters or they would lose most of their base. Is the GOP censuring Demagogue Donald who ran his own successful campaign with Steve King-like comments? Of course not. Donald, even after he won, called the Charlottesville KKKers and neo-Nazi rioters “very fine people.” In another appeal to blatant racism and xenophobia, Donald initiated a 35-day federal government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. Why? Because he had not received congressional funding for his U.S.-Mexico border wall (See nytimes.com, Stolberg, Fandos, Baker, 1/25/19).
If the GOP was really condemning racism/white supremacy, it miserably failed its first post-Steve King test. On 1/17/2019, GOP Cong. Jason Smith yelled at Dem. Rep Tony Cardenas, “Go back to Puerto Rico!” Puerto Rico, Congressman Smith, is part of America and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. FYI, Cong. Smith, fourth-term Cong. Cardenas (55) is Mexican-American. He represents the 29th CA Congressional District in Los Angeles’ suburban East San Fernando Valley, an area that is nearly 70% Hispanic (latimes.com/la-redistricting-map, 7/2011). Cong. Cardenas stated he was “shocked” to hear Smith’s words as he waited to speak on the House floor. He noted that he “had often heard those kinds of comments when he was a kid growing up outside Los Angeles (politico.com, Scholtes, Emma, & Ferris, 1/17/19).” Initially, none of the 50 mainly male GOPers on the floor wanted to admit to Cardenas who made that shameful statement. Cardenas had to ask several times which GOPer had said that. Cong. Smith finally called Cardenas and admitted that he had made this crack. Smith’s spokesman initially told “Roll Call” Magazine that this comment had been directed to “all the Democrats who were vacationing in Puerto Rico during the government shutdown.” Some 39 members of Congress had gone to Puerto Rico, hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Bold PAC, led by Cardenas. This trip had been planned before the government shutdown and was not a pleasure junket. This visit was undertaken to review the progress Puerto Rico had made since its devastation by Hurricane Maria (See Gander, newsweek.com, 1/18/19, politico.com, Scholtes et al, 1/17/19). House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated on the floor that Democrats believed this slur was aimed at Cardenas (politico.com, Scholtes et al). Cardenas later said that Cong. Smith had “sincerely apologized” to him and agreed that the two of them should “get to know each other better.” Cong. Cardenas hoped that from this “bad” incident, “something good will come.” With the GOP’s continual history of public and private racist and anti-immigrant remarks, don’t bet on it. Meet Cong. Smith.
Fourth-term GOP Congressman Jason Smith (38) currently represents MO’s 8th Congressional District (CD). The MO 8th is located in that state’s southeast section. The 8th stretches north up the Mississippi Valley from MO’s “Bootheel” tip to exurban St. Louis. The 8th goes west across national forests and farmland and takes in most of the 1.5 million-acre Mark Twain National Forest and the 80,000 Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi River’s shore, is the 8th’s most populous city. The cities of Rolla and Poplar Bluff are located in the 8th. Agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and lumber economically fuel this CD. The 8th’s population is heavily concentrated in its northern portion, which includes half of Jefferson County. The 8th is home to MO’s Lead Belt, a mining region. Reynolds and Iron Counties produce about 70% of the nation’s lead. Rolla, a former manufacturing stronghold, has attracted technology start ups and Cape Girardeau relies on health care and manufacturing. Despite these various economic mainstays, the poverty rate in the “Bootheel” is the highest in MO. The 8th CD has the lowest median household income of any MO district and high unemployment rates (CQ &Barone 14 Political Almanacs).
Politically, the “Show Me State” 8th has a “super-bright Red” rating. Its Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) is an R+24 (Cook Political Report, 4/07/17). Democrats can win local elections in the “Bootheel” where blacks are 25% of the population. Democrats also have some support among blue collar voters in Washington and Iron Counties as well as voters near St. Louis who are less socially conservative than rural ones. However, the 8th has become safely GOP in federal elections, sending only Republicans to Congress since the 1980’s and backing GOP presidential candidates. W Bush, McCain, and Romney won over 60% of the 8th’s votes. In 2016, Donald clobbered Hillary 75.4%-21%, making the MO 8th one of the most strongly GOP districts in the U.S. Cape Girardeau is the hometown of extreme right commentator Rush Limbaugh (See CQ & Barone 14).
St. Louis native Smith grew up in rural southern MO. His parents worked in an auto shop and had a family farm that Smith now owns. He received a 2001 undergraduate degree from the University of MO and a 2004 law degree from Oklahoma City University. He then returned to MO where he practiced law and operated his own real estate development business. In 2005, Smith won a special election to become one of the youngest members of the MO House. Smith was selected majority whip after the 2010 election and became Speaker Pro Tem in 2012. In the Mo House, Smith frequently spoke of the need to reduce regulations on farmers. In 2012, MO Dem. Gov. Jay Nixon signed Smith’s bill to require a periodic review of administrative rules to see whether they are still needed. When 8th CD GOP Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson resigned in 1/2013 to take another job, Smith aggressively jumped in to the 6/2013 special election race to fill this vacancy. He won the GOP nomination and handily beat his Democratic rival by nearly 40 points. He has coasted to re-election in all his other contests. In 2018, he defeated his Democratic opponent by 49 points (CQ 14, 2013 Special Election MO 8th Results, 2014, 2016, & 2018 MO 8th Cong. District Election Results).
While former MO 8th Cong. Emerson was an older and more moderate GOPer, Cong. Smith is a much younger and significantly more conservative Congressman. He is a strong fiscal and social conservative. He is a lifetime member of the NRA and fundamentalist Christian (See electjasonsmith.com, 2/0917). In 2017-2018, Smith voted with right-nationalist sympathizer IA GOP Cong. Steve King 95% of the time (projects.prorepublica.org). Cong. Smith has voted with Demagogue Donald an average 92.3% of the time. In the previous 115th Congress, Smith voted with Donald’s views 91.4% of the time. In the current 116th Congress, Smith has voted with Trump 100% of the time (1/23/19, projects.fivethirtyeight.com). Anti-regulatory right-wing Koch Industries gave Cong. Smith at least $5,000 in both 2014 and 2016, and $2,500 in 2018 (opensecrets.org, 2014 & 2016, prwatch.org, 2018).
Cong. Smith’s controversial statement to Cong. Cardenas was not his first. At a March 8, 2017 committee meeting where congressmen were debating a tanning salon tax under the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Smith asked why there was “no tax on the Sun since it was the leading cause of skin cancer.” He additionally argued that the tanning tax was “unfair to women since women go to tanning salons more than men (deathandtaxesmag.com, 3/08/17).” As a member of the key House Ways and Means Committee in the 115th Congress, (CQ 115 Cong. At Your Fingertips), Smith also had a role in writing and helping pass the top 1% tax cut bill that Donald signed.
Cong. Smith appears very secure in his “ultra-Red” seat in a GOP-trending state. However, with Democrats in charge of the House under the strong and competent leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), he is irrelevant. The key to keeping Smith a back bencher is for Democrats to maintain control of the House. The only way to do that is for Democrats to come out and vote in droves for “Team Blue” every two years when all members of the House always run for election. Every election has consequences.