Endlessly pulled between his affluent, elderly and considerably Jewish Florida coastal congressional district and his national status with Tea Party faithful who helped him get elected, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) pulls another one of his inflamed rhetorical stunts during a recent meeting with reporters.
Here’s The Hill giving bits of a firsthand account:
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) on Thursday said Democrats have an “incredible propaganda machine,” comparing Democrat proficiency to that of a Nazi administration head.
“If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine,” West told reporters in the House, according to multiple reports.
“You have the president, who has an incredible megaphone and a platform, and he has people all across this country believing that the only people on Capitol Hill are House Republicans. He’s not talking anything about his controlled Senate. So, it’s a great propaganda machine. And I have to give him kudos for being able to leverage that,” West said.
This poses a number of problems for both West and Black Republicans. It gets back to the question of whether or not West wants to get re-elected; his recent vote in favor of free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama seemed to say he woke up. It was an indication that he understood he was a full-time legislator representing the interests of his constituents, rather than a flame throwing talk show host.
However, there is also realization that West, at some point, would have to show an uglier side at some point as a way to make peace with Tea Partiers who had become increasingly skeptical of the first-term lawmaker’s motives. Was he with them or not? What was the deal behind joining the Congressional Black Caucus? Why was he suddenly taking somewhat moderate (one could argue faintly progressive) stances on the mortgage crisis?
Why was West sounding reasonable?
Now, West has put himself back into a tough spot, perhaps drinking the Kool Aid of the infant insurgent wing of the GOP or just privately plain scared that they could derail him during a primary. Still: how will his very Jewish district react to the Third Reich name-dropping?
The heat of a Tea Party that’s grown unpopular nationally is being felt by West and others, from South Carolina Governor Niki Haley to West’s Senate colleague in Florida Marco Rubio. The Republican elected officials of color seem to get public heat the most from Tea Party faithful actively targeting GOP members they helped elect.
Black Republicans, including West, seem to go out of their way to appease that wing of the party – at great cost. While Haley flips her finger at angry Tea Party activists by boldly endorsing Mitt Romney in South Carolina (a place that will have a hard time electing a flip-flopping, closet Northeastern moderate as their party nominee), West pulls out tirades, guns fully-loaded and blazing.
It’s the modus operandi of too many African Americans in the GOP. Bitter over their political displacement within the Black community or in search of new ways to dominate the talk show circuit, many Black Republicans take party talking points to a frequently offensive extreme. Yet, there is very little identifiable political leverage, clout or bite to match the bark.
Herman Cain was one recent example of a nationally renowned Black Republican who went above and beyond to disparage Black voters for their automatic support of Democratic tickets. But, while actively blasting African Americans for being “brainwashed by the Democrat party,” he could barely manage a clear sentence on U.S. foreign policy in a way that reflected the intelligence of a man running for the highest office in the land.
So, who’s “brainwashed?”
The point here is not to attack Black Republicans or castigate them as “sell outs.” In fact, it would add flavor and a strong mix of political power if there were more Black Republicans getting elected in such a way that was somewhat proportional to Black Democrats. Such a scenario could dramatically alter and potentially reverse the hopelessly broken relationship between the GOP and its Black nemesis. And it would make both parties notice – the same way they are noticing the Latino community.
It’s that Black Republicans must radically change their attitudes toward the larger Black community and employ better recruitment strategies. Giving vinegar to a dehydrated nomad does nothing to refresh the thirst; a glass of water would be better. Calling folks names or waterboarding them in public in front of your White Republican friends is not the way to increase Black membership (if that’s what you really want). There’s a lack of sophistication in that method.
Additionally, over-indulgent focus on wedge social issues such as abortion will not get Black Republicans candidates elected in districts housing large concentrations of African Americans struggling with high unemployment, high foreclosure rates and crumbling public schools. The last thing most African Americans are worried about is whether or not they end up in a Planned Parenthood clinic. And, even when some do, it’s within the context of a desperate economic situation exacerbated by unemployment or lack of access to capital. They want to know what you’re going to do about that.
So, Black GOP candidates must begin asking themselves a very basic question: “Am I here to make noise or am I here to get elected?”
Too many, unfortunately, seem resigned to the first choice. West, however, would argue that he’s being smart about it, cleverly maneuvering the halls of Congress while keeping his tea party profile intact.
Voters, not so brainwashed and simply trying to make ends meet, aren’t so stupid and can see through the act. Which is why Black Republicans can’t seem to get elected in any respectable numbers these days and why most fail to secure support or contributions from the party apparatus.
Black Republicans need to overhaul their image and their messaging. It’s time to stop playing amateur hour.