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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Does Allen West need to audition for Fox News, or was that what the last two years actually was?

Of course, before we really begin discussing the worst thing Allen West ever said, let’s note that the decent should hesitate briefly before mocking the soon-to-be former congressman from Florida’s 22nd district for two reasons.

First, West retired from the Army after being fined for “harsh interrogation tactics” while serving with the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq. You look at Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and see no excuse in her background for her callous fear mongering and fevered desire to legislate morality—except perhaps her marriage. You can reasonably assume that, like the victim of his interrogation, West may suffer from some sort of post-traumatic shock, a permanent fog of war.

That said, even more importantly, you have to wonder if focusing on their looniest toons only distracts from the calculated cynicism of the right and its billionaire funders. Or does it illuminate the extremism Republicans promise when given any sort of power? After Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, we have to assume the latter is more likely.

The far right are no longer pamphleteers and spit-ballers calling Eisenhower a “Commie” and accusing Kennedy of treason. They’re Republican candidates. In many ways, despite his questionable equanimity, Allen West is a perfect example of a Republican Party that can no longer tell the difference between governing and selling gold and emergency rations on AM radio.

Earlier this year, West told a town hall that “78 to 81” of his fellow members of Congress were members of the Communist Party. He followed that up with an op-ed in The Hill in which he didn’t back down from his claim. Instead he said he was trying to inspire “a passionate debate” and called the blustering AM radio demagogue Mark Levin an “esteemed scholar.”

West channeled former senator Joseph McCarthy perfectly when he asked, “What part of their agenda are they trying to hide?”

The assumption of guilt, the implication of defensiveness, the casual association with unspeakable horrors.

All of these were key aspects of McCarthyism and its blind attack on free speech and free thought. For decades after McCarthy’s censure by the Senate and rejection by his fellow Republicans, McCarthyism had been rejected by mainstream American society—then McCarthyism got its own news channel.

And about a decade and a half after the advent of Fox News, the right got its dream candidate in Allen West, who unapologetically called his colleagues “Communists” and no major voice in the Republican Party rose to rebuke him.

West has finally ceded his seat to Democrat Patrick Murphy, who defeated him in one of the most expensive congressional races in American history. This gave him the chance to voice his most deluded and inflammatory statement ever.

In an interview on NPR about his future plans, West ended by saying, “And always remember, Abraham Lincoln only served one term in Congress, too.”