Let’s not forget. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was asked a question about Marxists in Congress. West didn’t dodge the question or offer a sentimental statement about President Reagan in reply. Without shying away from even one dusty cobweb, West raided the political tomb of the McCarthy era.
West’s allegation that as many as 81 Democrats are Communists is indeed “daffy” thinking, as Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart wrote on Friday.
The larger problem, however, is that West’s allegations are less surprising than they ought to be in America’s conspiracy-loving environment.
There are unexplained things that need explaining in our world. And some conspiracy theories make me wonder, too.
But more often, I’m just sad that our country is slipping into a place where many public exchanges have traded thoughtful political appraisal for mean campaigning and debates about as insightful as rocks. In fact, our politics so often feel like old “Three Stooges” episodes it’s no wonder so many are running to theaters to view the new release.
West represents those who believe in tomb-raiding the past to explain the problems of the present. They revive nasty history just to repeat its sins. Politicians on both sides of the aisle frequently dig up old slurs and stereotypes — consciously or unconsciously — to score points with the electorate. Hardly a day goes by when someone isn’t apologizing for loose lips about something.
West resurrected the moldy entrails of the McCarthy era for Americans dissatisfied and distrusting of life in this country. The Florida legislator appears to be on the fringe, and in large part, I think he is. But the
number of people who favor his political style is growing.
You can meet someone like West driving behind you in a Lexus SUV. He or she is hard-working and may bring cupcakes to the office. But that same person may be quietly seething about the economy, and suspicious of change. That person doesn’t like what he sees, hears or knows about America. But he may admire the likes of Allen West.
When you look at West’s allegations in this way, his apparent nostalgia for the McCarthy era carries a weird logic. Back then, “the bad guys” wore Communist-red because Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy said they did.
Today’s society is chaotic and fragmented. Who are the bad guys now? Is it the shadow government? Is it the greedy corporations? Is it the flesh-eating media? Is it the banks? Is it immoral Hollywood?
Reportedly, West used his attack on the “destructive policies of the extreme left” to raise funds for his reelection campaign. No surprise there, either. In his disturbing world of conspiracies, West knows he is not alone.
Judy Howard Ellis is a Dallas-based creative consultant for entrepreneurs and the author of “Fall of the Savior-King,” a fantasy novel inspired by the Book of Genesis. Previously, she was features editor at the Denver Post. Follow her on Twitter at @JudyHowardEllis