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Monday, December 5, 2016

Apparently, some of my fellow Americans want to secede from the union, undaunted by the disastrous result of that infamous attempt back in the 19th century. They are likely congenital cranks, destined to be dissatisfied.

But that troublesome sort — a few hundred thousand who have petitioned the White House to form a separate country — represents just a tiny fraction of the nation’s voters. Most of us are happy to turn the page on a poisonous presidential campaign and usher in a season of reconciliation.

Here’s a gift to help get us started: Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida has been defeated in his bid for re-election. That alone will help us resume an attitude of charity toward those with differing political views and open room for a re-emergence of the idea of a common good. West was a one-man siege on Fort Sumter.

It’s not clear how a man who was once a distinguished Army lieutenant colonel came to be a caricature; a bilious, bigoted bomb-thrower who used only words of disrespect to describe Democrats and only rhetoric of hate and disdain to describe Muslims. Nor is it clear what American principles he fought for — remember the First Amendment? — in Iraq.

As a black Republican, West represented an opportunity for the GOP to open its tent to more people of color and to show that it could accommodate conservatives who were proud of President Obama’s ascendency. Instead, West was contemptuous of the president, as he was of all Democrats.

Last April, stirring the paranoia that is rampant on the fringes of American politics, West channeled the infamous red-baiter Joseph McCarthy. At a campaign event, he declared his belief that “there is about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.” He offered no evidence for the charge.