Commentary: GOP Outreach Has to Do Better Than Allen West

The Republican soul searching about courting minorities must extend to developing new positions on policy issues.

Posted: 11/13/2012 06:34 PM EST
Allen West

In the aftermath of the presidential election and the devastating results for Republicans, leaders of a chastened GOP have been virtually tripping over themselves to extol the virtues of diversity.

They have, at long last, found religion in embracing the necessity of appealing to Black and brown America. The Obama victory – and its down ballot impact – was so unexpected, so stunning that it has made Republicans give voice to the need to reach out to groups that form the diverse face of the nation.

It’s a welcomed development, to be sure. But a word of caution to the Republicans: Be careful what Black and brown candidates you promote.

Take Allen West, for example. The Florida congressman and Tea Party zealot has been nothing short of an embarrassment. He has embraced every extreme position on the political landscape, all while making public statements that are somewhere between outrageous and wacky.

He is the man who claimed that more than 100 Democrats in the House of Representatives were members of the Communist Party. At another point, he said, “the Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today.”

On another occasion, West likened the Democratic Party’s messaging with that of Adolf Hitler’s minister of propaganda. “If Joseph Goebbels was around, he’d be very proud of the Democrat party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine,” West said.

Even in defeat, West comes off as unreasonable and strident. He can’t quite accept his loss in last week’s election to Democrat Patrick Murphy.

Rather than accept his loss with grace and dignity, West filed lawsuits to have ballots and voting machines impounded in two counties in his district. Alas, the judge in one county threw out the case, explaining that attorneys for the West campaign had fallen "woefully short" of what was required for an injunction.

While we’re on the subject of not accepting electoral losses, Mia Love, the Republican candidate for a congressional seat in Utah, has apparently rescinded her earlier concession to Democratic incumbent Jim Matheson. Without belaboring the point, you know your party is in trouble when a Black conservative woman endorsed by Mitt Romney and Republican leaders loses a congressional race in Utah.

Political analysts contend that Love’s effort to be the first African-American Republican woman elected to Congress was thwarted by a higher-than-expected turnout by Latino voters. And those voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly for the Democratic incumbent.

It’s worth recalling that African-Americans were overwhelmingly Republican for a great portion of the 20th century. In short, it is simply not enough for Republicans to prop up a Black or Latino face and feel they have accomplished their diversity duty.

If they want to appeal to constituencies that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, they have to invest in public policy positions that are in the interest of those whom they purport to court.


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 (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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