It's open season on a principled black conservative.
On the list of things that make progressives gnash their teeth and foam at their mouths, little tops an African-American of the conservative persuasion. Even more horrifying to the Left is one who makes clear: "you're not going to intimidate me," as Congressman Allen West (R-FL) said at a Tuesday night town hall meeting where leftists, including former Air America host Nicole Sandler (who was later arrested), tried to disrupt the event. From his successful 2010 congressional campaign through today, Congressman Allen West remains unfazed by such tactics. As a result, the attacks against him by the American Left continue.
The attacks began during West's race for the House of Representatives against Democratic incumbent Ron Klein in what the Palm Beach Daily News characterized as "one of the nastiest campaigns of the season." Klein's political ads were a testament to that reality, focusing exclusively on attacking West's character instead of on the issues. (Disclosure: I live in Florida, close to West's district, and can personally attest to the tenor of Klein's campaign.) According to Klein, West was “too dangerous and too extreme.” Klein also revealed that West had accumulated a tax lien and unpaid homeowner's association dues, and claimed he was tied to the Outlaws motorcycle gang.
West's responses? The debts were incurred while he was fighting for his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have been paid off. He rides motorcycles, but has no affiliation to the Outlaws. Yet when the Florida Democratic Party made West's tax lien document public, they included his social Security number in the release to 60,000 voters in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. West characterized the release as "a new low... it is not about character assassination, it is about destruction of a family," he said, referring to the possibility of identification theft.
New DNC head Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) took time to criticize West as well, making the bizarre accusation that he is "self-described right-wing extremist...who thinks it's OK to objectify and denigrate women[.]" She extrapolated this from the fact that West writes a column for a biker magazine which has some less-than-enlightened views regarding women. Thus, West is guilty by association. Wasserman-Schultz continued, "Tea party extremists have some real issues when it comes to women that they need to address," she said. "If they don't address them, we will, with our voices and our votes." The people of Florida's 22nd district apparently disagreed. West beat incumbent Democrat Klein handily, by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin.
Also during the campaign, G. Seth Platt, the son of a Broward County lobbyist, who created the blog No West FL 22 (devoted to attacking West, of course), claimed he was "so alarmed" about West's candidacy, that he tweeted about how he was willing to "skin you personally West.” Mr. Platt is white, and yet his over-the-top rhetoric directed at a black American was virtually ignored by the mainstream media. The Sun Sentinel reported in January that Platt was employed at his father's lobbying firm.
On April 8th, an envelope containing white powder was mailed to West's Boca Raton campaign office. According to a statement from West's Chief of Staff Jonathan Blythe, a letter mailed with the package mentioned the word "anthrax" and included derogatory comments aimed at the Congressman. "I thoroughly condemn this act which does nothing but evidence the sick and deranged nature of the perpetrator," West said in a statement released the same day. "I will continue to serve the constituents of Florida's Congressional District 22 with honor and integrity." Though the substance turned out to be harmless, police took the incident very seriously, due to the fact that Boca Raton was the location of the nation's first fatal anthrax attack following 9/11.
In an email sent to his constituents, West, reflecting on these last three attacks, speculated on why "the media simply dismissed the incidents." "One might wonder--is it open season on a principled black conservative?" he wrote.
It may very well be. But not just for the principles West espouses, but the way he espouses them. On his website http://allenwestforcongress.com/blog, candidate West maintained a blog spanning from Sept. 9, 2009 to Nov. 16, 2010 in which he outlined both his own positions, and pointed criticisms of progressive ideology. His style of writing was extremely forthright, both in defending his conservative principles, and taking on the progressive worldview, as well as its adherents, in no uncertain terms. In one of his final entries, "The Politics of Character Assassination," West not only took on the media and the DNC, but establishment Republicans to whom he posed a question regarding their preference for RINOs who could win over Tea Party candidates who might not: "is it more important to win with no principles than to stand for something? That is the question the Republican party had soon answer unless they seek to steal defeat from the jaws of victory," he blogged.
His straightforward style of speaking is equally forthright. Numerous videos available on the internet attest to this reality, such as this one on the topic of illegal immigration and his disdain for amnesty, this one regarding his contempt for government dependency and an unabashed belief in American exceptionalism, and this brilliant exposition of Islamic jihadism in a speech for the Freedom Defense Initiative.
This last topic put Mr. West on the the Council of America Islamic Relations' (CAIR) radar. The organization, designated as a co-conspirator during the Holy Land Foundation terrorism financing trial in which four defendants were convicted of aiding terrorist organizations, sent Executive Director Nezar Hamze to one of West's townhall meetings in Pompano Beach, FL on Feb 21, 2011. Holding a Koran in his hand, Mr. Hamze asked where the book gives orders to its followers “to carry out attacks against Americans and innocent people.” West pointed out that the Koran was written long before America existed, but that it does tell its followers to kill infidels. West then chronicled a list of historical acts of aggression by Muslims, including the Fort Hood massacre and 9/11. He finished up the heated exchange with this: "I went to Muslim countries to defend the freedom of Muslim people. Don't come up here and try to criticize me. Put the microphone down and go home."
Sadly, the onslaught against West shows no sign of letting up. On Wednesday night, I attended Allen West's town hall meeting in Boca Raton. Much like the meeting on Tuesday, Mr. West had to endure several leftists attempting to shout him down during his speech, and the Q&A which followed it. Much like Tuesday night, Mr. West kept his cool and security escorted the unruly people out of the auditorium. No one was arrested, and to the best of my observation, the disrupters did not appear to be officially organized. However, the arrested Nicole Sandler and her cohorts seem to have something of a personal obsession with West. Sandler tweeted Wednesday that her boyfriend was going to attend the Boca Raton town hall and that she hoped she didn't have to "bail him out jail (sic)" (h/t NBC Miami).
West's no-nonsense approach to politics has galvanized many conservatives who would like to see him as part of the Republican ticket in 2012. If he were at the top of the ticket he would undoubtedly give Democrats fits, because he would devastate one of their primary motifs for the upcoming election, best expressed by PBS host Tavis Smiley on Wednesday. Smiley predicted the 2012 presidential campaign would be "the ugliest, the nastiest, the most divisive, and the most racist in the history of this Republic." On Wednesday I spoke with West's Communications Director Angela Sachitano, and asked about the possibility of West running for higher office. "Right now he's focused on running for re-election in his district," she told me. But she also left the open the possibility that things might change.
With his star rising, West is right to keep his options open. Tellingly, one of the candidates currently polling high on the Republican side of the ledger is Donald Trump. Why? A straightforward, take-no-prisoners approach to national politics. Allen West is just as straightforward, but he has at least three things going for him that Trump does not: a command of the facts, a genuine commitment to conservative principles, and a down-to-earth style which connects with a large cross-section of voters.
But the road ahead will be difficult, if West does indeed have higher political aspirations. In his last election, West faced a strategy of character assassination by his opponent. Unfortunately, as he becomes more ascendant, he will only face more ruthless attacks by the leftist stewards of race politics -- those who demand conformity, and have little tolerance for rouge minorities who are unafraid to promote principled individualism in lieu of the culture of dependency.