You might know Rep. Allen West as the man forced to leave the Army after assaulting an Iraqi police officer by firing a gun next to his head to scare him. Or as the congressman who attacked Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, calling her “vile” and “not a lady.” West is also the man who famously proclaimed that he “can’t stand” President Obama. In short, he’s a Tea Party Republican congressman who a great many people despise, and often for good reason. Which is why it pains me to have to agree with him about something.
Last week, West sent a letter to Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), threatening to quit the group. West says he’s been turned off by some CBC members’ actions lately, and that he’ll leave if the behavior continues. Specifically, West takes issue with two recent quotes from CBC members Maxine Waters, a congresswoman from California, and André Carson, a congressman from Indiana. Both Waters and Carson are Democrats, and both have a bone to pick with the Tea Party. In late August Waters told a town hall rally that the Tea Party can “go straight to hell.” About a week later, at another town hall, Carson told the audience that the Tea Party sees Blacks as “second-class citizens” and wants to see African-Americans “hanging on a tree.”
In his letter to Cleaver, West called the comments “unconscionable.” “As chairman of the CBC, I believe it is incumbent on you to both condemn these types of hate-filled comments, and to disassociate the Congressional Black Caucus from these types of remarks," wrote West. "Otherwise, I will have to seriously reconsider my membership within the organization."
As I said before, having to agree with West about anything is difficult for me, but he’s completely in the right on this one. While it is in fact true that Tea Party supporters have different views on race than many Americans — Tea Party members are more likely to say that “too much has been made of the problems facing Blacks” — there’s a big difference between different views and wanting to violently lynch African-Americans. By fear mongering and telling people to go to hell, Carson and Waters are participating in the kind of hateful, spiteful childishness that’s made the Tea Party so controversial. You can’t ask Tea Partiers to stop calling the president a Muslim and then turn around and call Tea Partiers a bunch of Klan members. Civility only works when it’s shared back and forth. Otherwise you’ve got hypocrisy all around.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst /Landov)