Political Hay

Allen West and His Critics

About those "78 to 81" congressional Democrats who are "communists."

By 5.4.12

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Congressman Allen West is being hammered for his comments alleging that certain Democratic members of Congress are communists. It's the kind of accusation (West is not backing down) that sets liberals seething in rage. An even worse sin was that West dared to quantify his accusation, attaching a number to the alleged Reds. He said there are "78 to 81" Congressional Democrats who are communists.

Naturally, all of this is a huge no-no, reflexively sending liberals into fits and shouts of "McCarthyism!"

I want to say three things relating to West's remarks: First, some criticism of West's critics. Second, a defense of West's critics. And, finally, some criticism of West, which I offer constructively. I like Allen West, consider him a rising star in the Republican Party and conservative movement, and want him to succeed.

First, on West's critics:

Their concern about West's exaggeration and name-calling and lack of "civility" has little credibility coming from an ideology (liberalism) and political party (Democrats) that thrive on exaggeration and name-calling and a lack of civility. I could easily point out a litany of examples. It's as simple as the latest liberal/Democrat gambit accusing Republicans of a "war on women" merely because they believe the federal government shouldn't force taxpayers to fund contraception and Planned Parenthood. For that crime, West's colleague Maxine Waters called Republicans "demons." Nancy Pelosi said they want women to "die on the floor." Dianne Feinstein insisted they want "to sock it to women." Harry Reid claimed Republicans have placed a "bull's eye on women." Barbara Boxer described it as a "vendetta" against women. And, in sum, Congresswoman Barbara Lee called it a GOP "war on women."

I could go on and on. We all could. Do a Google search on the words "George W. Bush" and "Hitler" or "Nazi." Or recall the obscene statements from Democratic lawmakers regarding the Iraq war. Remember that Senator Dick Durbin compared our troops at Gitmo to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others."

But only when a Rush Limbaugh blows his top -- or someone like Allen West issues charges like this one -- does the New York Times start issuing calls for civility.

Point made. Now, for my second and third points:

Allen West needs to be much more careful. He sloppily overlapped categories and blurred key lines of distinction -- which, as a brilliant thinker who makes nuanced distinctions, he doesn't usually do. Of course, the Left makes this easy for us to do. Witness my last piece for American Spectator, which focused on The Nation's list of all-time most influential "progressives." Number one was a socialist, Eugene Debs. Also on the list were hardcore communists like Paul Robeson, who literally loved Stalin -- and actually won the Stalin Prize. The list is filled with Soviet sympathizers, dupes, and even a onetime Soviet agent. Moreover, Allen West is totally correct in stating that communists have long used the word "progressive" as a cover. If I had a dollar for every communist or communist front that masked itself as "progressive," I'd be a multi-millionaire. I could show example after example from Soviet Comintern archives, CPUSA documents, the Daily Worker, you name it.

Nonetheless, that said, the left side of the political spectrum is very broad. It includes Democrats, liberals, progressives, "social-justice" Christians, socialists, communists, Marxists, Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists, and more. There are distinct differences, even if and when a liberal Democrat favors something that Marx favored. For instance, point 2 in Marx's 10-point plan in The Communist Manifesto calls for "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax." Advocates of this include basically the entirety of the Democratic membership of the House of Representatives -- but it doesn't make them Marxists. Consider point 3 in Marx's 10-point plan, which calls for "abolition of all rights of inheritance." Many "liberals" and "progressives" advocate that to some degree (via taxation), but I know of no Congressional Democrat calling for complete abolition of all rights of inheritance.

Likewise, Marx wrote this: "the theory of the communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property." Liberals happily place all kinds of restrictions on private property, but I know of no Congressional Democrat who would go as far as Lenin and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Castro.

Here's the reality that often complicates things for conservatives as we look at the Left: Liberals agree with communists on many key sympathies -- workers' rights, the spreading and redistribution of wealth, a narrow to non-existent income gap, a central government offering a wide array of "free" government services, a favoring of the public sector over the private sector, class-based rhetoric (often demagoguery) toward the wealthy, progressively high tax rates, an expansive federal government, a cynicism of business and capitalism, to name a few. The differences are matters of degree, but they are crucial differences -- so crucial, in fact, that liberals are not communists.

Allen West didn't say that every liberal in Congress is a communist. Yet, he did say that there is a huge portion. Even worse, in his initial statement, he said that "78 to 81" were actual Communist Party members, or about 40 percent of the Democratic membership. Clearly that's not accurate. If it is, then West should be chiseled into Mt. Rushmore for exposing the greatest threat to Washington since the War of 1812 -- and we should commence a national march to the Capitol right now, with torches.

I assume that West misspoke, and meant communists (lower case "c") in ideology, not actual card-carrying Communist Party members.

Sure, West appears to be thinking of the far-left Democratic Socialists of America, many of whose members justifiably invite suspicions, as well as the Congressional Progressive Caucus. What he ought to say, however, is that a large number of them share some sympathies and even certain goals with communists, but they're not full-blown CPUSA members.

Enough said.

Unfortunately, liberals won't do anything to expose communists in their own ranks. They never have. Communists know that, and for 100 years have been successfully using liberals as dupes to advance communist causes. Frankly, liberals don't seem to care if there are communists hiding and brooding and making fools of them. It doesn't bother them like it bothers us conservatives, leaving it to us to blow the whistle -- and thereby invite their scorn as Neanderthal anti-communists. There's nothing that liberals detest more than anti-communism. Their preferred villain is Joe McCarthy, not Joe Stalin.

What Allen West must learn is the lesson of McCarthy for any modern conservative: If you're going to call certain people communists, you better be absolutely, 100% certain. They and their mass media will go ballistic, demanding a level of precision from you that they never demand from their own name-callers. Our side must be more cautious. It's unfair. It's pure hypocrisy, yes. But that's the deck that's stacked against us.

Allen West, your courage and boldness is refreshing -- but please be more careful.

 

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About the Author

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.