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Posted at 11:08 AM ET, 07/21/2011

Allen West and the `plantation’ card

Rep. Allan West is now saying that Democrats only criticize him and Herman Cain because they’re racist.

On the Mark Levin show, West addressed his recent spat with DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz by implying that the only reason liberals have a problem with him is because he’s black and conservative:

”I grew up in the inner city, strong values, came from a strong military family and background,” West continues. “What we do is we totally invalidate the liberal social welfare policies and programs. And you know, I’m the threat because I’m the guy that got off their 21st-century plantation, and they cannot afford to have a strong voice such as mine out there, reverberating and resonating across this country.”

If West had simply said that sometimes liberals unfairly attack black conservatives by questioning their racial authenticity, suggesting that there’s some sort of “betrayal” involved with being black and conservative, he would have had a defensible argument. Instead he flatters himself and disparages the majority of blacks who vote Democratic by suggesting that they’re somehow slaves who haven’t escaped the liberal/Dem “plantation.” GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain recently said something similar, concluding that liberals don’t like him “because I won’t stay on the Democrat plantation like I’m supposed to.”

What makes West’s response particularly odd in this instance is that Wasserman-Schultz criticized West for wanting to cut Medicare. It was West who attacked Wassserman-Schultz on the basis of idetity politics, saying she is “not a lady,” as though her gender were even relevant to the issue.

The “plantation” canard is’t particularly new, but it’s worth unpacking in detail, because it points to the real role black conservatives play in the Republican Party. It’s not just that they have conservative views. Black Republicans often play a very specific role in defending the party’s record on race, and in putting Democrats on the defensive by accusing them of racism in expecting blacks to remain with the Democratic Party. In the process, some, like Cain and West, flatter conservatives by implying that black people vote for Democrats in such huge numbers not because of the GOP’s record on race, but because blacks have been tricked by Dems into not thinking for themselves. The role black Republicans play has nothing to do with winning over black voters Rather, it’s all about reassuring white Republicans that there’s nothing wrong with the party’s approach to racial issues.

Then there’s the ultimate irony — conservatives are convinced that black people still struggle economically because of a culture of racial victimhood that holds them back. Yet frequently, the most prominent black voices in the Republican Party are cheered by Republicans whenever they present themselves as the oppressed victims of left wing racism. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

By Adam Serwer  |  11:08 AM ET, 07/21/2011

 
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