“Communist,” “Progressive,” Whatever

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

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.