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Editorial: King returns to his toxic well

Editorial: King returns to his toxic well

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Watch out, minorities of America. Mr. Identity Politics himself, U.S. Rep. Steve King, doesn’t want even your greatest heroes on U.S. currency.

King, the Republican who represents northwest Iowa, quietly filed a proposed amendment Friday to the Treasury Department’s funding package, a move first reported by Huffington Post. The change would have barred the Treasury from spending any cash on redesigning bills or coins. Treasury, of course, is planning on remaking the $20 bill, replacing slave-hunting, native-slaughtering President Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman, a titan of the Underground Railroad.

Thankfully, the House Rules Committee agreed to deny floor debate of the proposal.

Now, there’s no reason for surprise for King’s move. His career is littered with dehumanizing attacks on illegal immigrants and “anchor babies,” half-baked English-only bills and a general disdain for anything relating to cultural pluralism.

The planned removal of Jackson from the $20 bill hasn’t been without debate. Treasury first hoped to swap Tubman for Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. But a smash-hit Broadway musical about the architect of centralized federal banking, for now, solidified Hamilton’s place in monetary history.

Plus, Jackson loathed central banks. And yet, for decades, the very institution he so hated honored him with a place on what’s become, in the age of automated teller machines, the most significant bill in circulation.

Yes, white men were instrumental in the formation of the U.S. They were, after all, the only ones allowed at the table. But over the past 240 years, women and minorities have played huge roles in crafting this ever-evolving republic.

Tubman, a black woman, is a powerful recognition of those struggles and sacrifices.

It’s ironic that one of the largest crusaders of English-only policy would so mangle the language, too. The insertion of King’s amendment would have changed the bill to read, “may be used to redesign the any Federal Reserve note or coin.”

Oops.

Tradition. Heritage. These are standard buzzwords employed to defend outmoded norms. Unfortunately, such claims are specious, at best. “In God We Trust,” for example, wasn’t added to U.S. currency until 1956, at the height of the Cold War.

Mores come. Mores go.

King’s record shows a general bent toward anything that keeps the country thoroughly whitewashed. His proposed amendment, which would swap “$1” for “any” might have seemed small. But its practical implications are undeniable.

It’s time for a woman to grace American currency. It’s time that the contribution of African-Americans is recognized on the most obvious symbol of U.S. economic power. And Tubman’s place on the $20 accomplishes both goals.

But King is in the midst of a re-election bid. And throughout his career, he’s relied on white anger and a lust for social exclusion to consolidate his base. It’s worked seven election cycles. Why not go for eight?

And that’s what King’s ridiculous amendment was all about. The identity politics well has provided life to King’s congressional career for years. And no amount of toxicity will keep him from lapping it up.

— By the Quad-City Times, another Lee Enterprises newspaper

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