U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) told a group of constituents recently, “There’s about 78 to 81 (House) members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.”
His remarks echo Senator Joe McCarthy’s 1950 claim that he had a list of more than 205 Communists in the State Department. West’s charge is also equally deceitful.
A bit of context first. At the end of World War II, the Allies, including the Soviet Union, divvied up Europe into zones of occupation, the U.S. and Great Britain ceding the Soviets Eastern Europe, areas they had liberated from Nazi occupation.
Countries like Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland quickly became closed Communist societies, ruthlessly and sometimes brutally controlled by Moscow. In the Far East, the Soviets backed the North Korean Communists who invaded South Korea, triggering the Korean War.
Communist aggression was on display for all to see. Americans envisioned a third world war should Joseph Stalin attack his former allies, a fear amplified after the Soviets acquired nuclear bombs. Thus, McCarthy sought to exploit that fear when he made his now infamous claim of Communists in the State Department.
West and his tea party cohorts in Congress have accomplished little since winning office in 2010. Finding himself up for re-election with nothing to show for his two years in Congress, West dug up the “Red Menace” zombie. His goal is to associate Democrats and President Obama with the bloodthirsty Stalin and Soviet-era Communism, no matter that Stalin and the Soviet Union have been dead for years.
Red baiting fooled enough voters in 2010 to help tea partiers win some House seats, so why not in 2012? What West forgets is McCarthy’s brief career in the Senate ended after he pushed his bogus Communist line once too often.
The same will probably happen to West. When confronted by a television news host to name the 78 to 81 Communist Party members in the House, West said he was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Then his campaign manager tried to walk back West’s videotaped comments, saying the congressman was “misquoted.”
West can run but he can’t hide. He hopes his constituents are ignorant enough to buy a charge he can’t substantiate. West is banking that the mere mention of “Communists” is enough to dupe them because a lie is all he has to offer.
Tea partiers like West are failing because they see modern America in monochrome. The country has changed since the Constitution was written, yet tea partiers long for the days of when a man — and only a white man — could do as he pleased, however he pleased.
This view presupposes the nobility of men. It naively suggests men will always do the moral and just thing if unrestrained by laws and regulations.
We even tried it once. Without laws and regulations, America had slavery, child labor, exploited workers, segregation, polluted water and air, monopolies, financial malfeasance, and worse; the tea party’s “good old days.”
Tea partiers also take no responsibility for their fellow citizens. People like West see themselves as independent organisms with no obligation to the body. It’s a failed ideology, as Benjamin Franklin would likely attest. He famously said after signing the Declaration of Independence, “We must hang together, gentlemen, else we shall most assuredly hang separately.”
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.