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Wednesday July 11, 2012

Allen West’s Gain is GOP’s Loss

Posted by Omar Tewfik at 8:48 am

Florida Congressman Allen West (R-22) has a history of deplorable behavior. While serving in Iraq, the former Lt. Colonel was involved in a prisoner abuse scandal and was relieved of his command for firing his weapon multiple times next to a detainee’s head. Today, Rep. West, a Tea Party favorite, is an extremely visible GOP spokesperson and is increasing his public profile by positioning himself as a non-politically correct, “tell it like I see it” member of Congress.  But Rep. West is hardly the “no nonsense” kind of politician many people admire. In many ways, he represents the exact opposite, often choosing to inject an unnecessary degree of belligerence when he talks politics and social issues. In the Arab American community, he is notorious for the offensive things he’s said about Muslims and Arabs. For example, when the FBI announced that it would purge offensive and factually inaccurate training documents about Arabs and Muslims, West opposed the move, saying it would lead to “cultural suicide.” And during his campaign, he made it a point to stir up fears and denigrate Muslims and Islam.

Rep. West doesn’t only focus his energy on bashing Arabs and Muslims; he hits out daily at other politicians, bringing back much of the rancor the country sought to sequester in the wake of the Arizona shootings. Just last week, West made headlines twice for attacking Obama on social security, saying that the president is trying to make Americans into slaves, a claim he repeated on Sunday. After the Supreme Court healthcare decision, Rep. West came out and said that in addition to the government requiring free healthcare, he believes “for personal security, every American should go out and have to buy a Glock .9-millimeter.”

There are always going to be controversial figures in politics. But they only maintain relevancy as long as we provide them a forum to continue making headlines. In response to Rep. West’s slave comments, Republican National Committee Chairman did just that by dismissing any notion that the comments were offensive and doubled down on Rep. West, saying “Allen West is one of the most dynamic new Republican stars in our party. … He’s got a bright future.” As a matter of political allegiance, Priebus can’t publicly lambast Rep. West, but his embrace of the Congressman’s future in the GOP as a potential leadership figure is troubling. Republicans have to think long-term. Rep. West’s brand of politics is continuing the trend of ultimately compromising the GOP’s appeal to certain communities that once had a larger conservative contingent. According to AAI polling data, Arab Americans have become less and less able to relate to the Republican Party over the last ten years. In 2000 Arab American Republicans constituted 38% of the Arab vote. That number dwindled to 25% in 2010. Of course this has nothing to do with Allen West, but with the country’s politics so divided and with races as close as they are, every vote counts.

If you take the Asian American community into consideration as well, their party affiliation has shifted to favor Democrats in part because of a lack of outreach. The Asian American community is one of the fastest growing populations of minority groups in the country, yet the GOP continues to lose out on their support. One key difference in this comparison is the fact that Asians are simply not being courted while Arabs are being actively marginalized. The issue remains that alienating any group of potential voters is not smart for either political party. But as the rhetoric flares, Rep. West gains financially. He is outraising his compatriots with multiple small donations. So, as the broader GOP loses out on votes they might otherwise have in the bag, Rep. West is benefitting financially. And the party is turning a blind eye, thus embracing a potentially detrimental brand of politics that hurts their long game.

Tagged as Issues, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, State Specific, Florida, Posted by Omar Tewfik

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