Political Animal


April 25, 2012 4:45 PM “Communist,” “Progressive,” Whatever

By Ed Kilgore

I would have thought that the one thing we could expect from Allen West is that if he didn’t have the decency to apologize for his bizarre characterization of “78 to 81” Democratic Members of Congress (later modified to refer to the Progressive Caucus) as members of the Communist Party, he’d at least shut up about it.

But no. West has published a column at The Hill that seeks to defend this idiotic slander as a brave effort to spur a “debate” over fundamental principles. Those offended by being red-baited are, he suggests, focusing on “semantics” and “nuance,” qualities that he found deadly when on the “battlefield.”

Well, nobody’s going to accuse West of “nuance,” though he gets very slippery in his column:

Specific “party” affiliation is not the point of the discussion — it is rather affiliation with a set of ideals. Conservatives adhere to the ideals of individual responsibility and freedom, limited government, a free market and a strong defense. Those on the liberal left adhere to a collective ideal, directed and controlled by a centralized government to guarantee and enforce social and economic justice.
You can call this what you wish. The esteemed scholar and author Mark Levin [!] calls it “statism.” In our lifetime, the unpalatable and pejorative brands “socialist” and “communist” have been replaced with the more user-friendly “progressive” term.
But this is not a discussion about labels.

Of course not, congressman, which is why you chose the most inflammatory label imaginable, right? But that’s a quibble, since “progressive” is just the latest name for the people who used to go by “socialist” or “communist,” as the eminent historian Glenn Beck has so often explained. After all, it should be obvious to anyone that supporting an approach to health care crafted by the Heritage Foundation and test-driven by the 2012 Republican presidential nominee is indistinguishable from supporting a dictatorship of the proletariat, state ownership of the means of production, and the liquidation of the kulaks. The total disappearance of liberty and private property in those Western countries (all of them!) with far greater government involvement in the economy than anything anyone in the Progressive Caucus has ever demanded is so obvious as to require no documentation, of course.

I understand that West is a notorious wingnut whom it is difficult to take seriously. But by the same token, Robert Draper’s apparently authoritative insider account of the current Congress calls West “arguably the most influential member of the freshman class.” The 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee has suggested he’d make an ideal running-mate for Mitt Romney.

So long as West is being treated with such respect by his fellow partisans, then he’s definitely fair game. And if he persists in smearing Democrats in a manner that would have embarrassed Joe McCarthy, and then blames the objects of that smear for being a little oversensitive about the “nuances” of their relative affinity to totalitarian murderers, then every single member of the GOP who doesn’t denounce him deserves to be taken to the nearest elementary school and taught some basic world history.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • DisgustedWithItAll on April 25, 2012 5:04 PM:

    What makes anyone think the wingnuts can learn history any more than they can learn economics and (climate) science? Nearly to the man, most of the Republicans in Congress are mediocre men of mediocre intellect and mediocre accomplishment.

  • T2 on April 25, 2012 5:18 PM:

    hummm.... a central government that guarantees and enforces social and economic justice.....sounds pretty damn good to me. No wonder a GOPer is against it.

  • FlipYrWhig on April 25, 2012 5:18 PM:

    I know they use the wretched Jonah Goldberg book to argue that Hitler and Mussolini are on the left, but, even leaving those obvious monsters aside, how long do you think the press would listen to a liberal politician who insisted that Republicans are really just part of a longstanding political history of authoritarianism that includes Francisco Franco, Suharto, and Idi Amin?

  • Daniel Buck on April 25, 2012 5:23 PM:

    Ed, By Allen West's definition, anyone who receives Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, or drives on the Interstate Highway System, or eats food grown by the Ag Dept braced American farmers, or takes drugs regulated by the FDA is, if not a communist, a fellow traveler. Certainly those who drive on the Interstate Highway System are fellow travelers -- of mine. I see them on I-395 frequently.

  • Anonymous on April 25, 2012 5:27 PM:

    “semantics” and “nuance,” qualities that he found deadly when on the “battlefield.”

    along with other quaint concepts like "torture" and "war crimes" . . .

  • Tom Dibble on April 25, 2012 5:27 PM:

    If "Progressive" is just a new term for "Communist" I suppose "Conservative" is just a new term for "Ignorant Asshole", judging from Mr West.

  • kindness on April 25, 2012 5:29 PM:

    You haven't read the comments over at that Hill article, have you? Most of them support West. I rarely read The Hill any more because the commentators are so vile. Might as well be on Fox News' blog.

  • jprichva on April 25, 2012 6:09 PM:

    Missing the point of West's stunt here.
    He says things like this because to his supporters the value of a pronunciamento is judged by how much they think it irritates liberals.

    The only correct response is to publicly suggest that Allen West be more responsible in taking his Thorazine.

  • Doug on April 25, 2012 8:29 PM:

    The only problem I've ever noticed about "Communism" is that no-one's ever found a way to make it work WITHOUT a dictatorship of some sort or other.
    Marx couldn't and even provided for the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" to bridge the gap between capitalism and true communism. Of course Marx was a Romantic in the same mold as Robespierre and St. Just, so that explains a lot. Lenin, most certainly NOT a Romantic and in order to maintain his illegal power, also made a few adjustments. As did Stalin. I'm not certain WHAT to call what the Chinese have done to Communism, except to note that I find it odd they had build that massive Three Gorges Dam; I would have thought enough electricity could have been harnessed from Mao's revolving corpse!
    Rep. West, if he was as smart as he likes to pretend he is, would know that the ONLY "ism" one needs to worry about nowadays is authoritarianism - usually rightwing and often dynastic, but rarely leftwing.
    I know a political party in this very country that easily satisfies the first two of those descriptions and so SHOULD Rep. West...

  • 2Manchu on April 25, 2012 9:09 PM:

    "Conservatives adhere to the ideals of individual responsibility and freedom, limited government, a free market and a strong defense."

    How can you ensure your citizens' freedom, let alone a strong defense and a free market, with limited government?

    As for "individual responsibility", to a conservative that usually means "blaming someone else when we fuck up".

    "Those on the liberal left adhere to a collective ideal, directed and controlled by a centralized government to guarantee and enforce social and economic justice."

    You mean, like this?:

    "We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more Perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the Common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, to Ourselves and Our Posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution, for the United States of America."

    I dunno, sounds like some kind of statist collective ideal, if you ask me....

  • mudwall jackson on April 25, 2012 11:53 PM:

    since this is not a discussion about labels, i'm sure rep. west won't mind me calling him a national socialist.

  • Jeri on April 26, 2012 1:01 PM:

    What makes my brain fry is that no one (except for those on the left, who are preaching to the damn choir again) is standing up and saying how insane and how un-American, in the most fundamental sense, West's claims are. How about "At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency?" Surely there's somewhere one Republican who thinks this is appalling. Why oh why are these people listened to? Where is Boehner, McConnell, or--imagine--Romney saying, "For once I won't be political; I'll just do the human thing?"

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