|"A commemoration of Black History Month, or: Why Democrats have been racists for 200 years."|
Last Wednesday, Congressman Allen West took to the House floor to commemorate Black History Month. As the first black congressman from Florida since Reconstruction, he was in a unique position to do so. West had hundreds of years of history he could have talked about, including 51 years of his own. Instead, he turned his "commemoration" into a partisan attack that featured delusional attacks for things that happened 150 years ago.
A hint at how hyperbolic this thing was: West spoke reverently about Abraham Lincoln and the end of slavery, then said, "The Democratic appetite for ever-increasing re-distributionary handouts is, in fact, the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today."
I'm not really sure how people who are actually modern-day slaves
would feel about this statement, but here are a few others that merit a closer look:
West spent most of the 17-minute speech, which is titled "West Exceptional Speech" on his own YouTube channel, grabbing credit for Republican reforms that happened long before any of his old, ignorant colleagues were even born, reforms with forward-thinking, progressive qualities that seem to be long-gone in the GOP.
"The Republican Party has always been the party of freedom," West said. "The Republicans have always been the party of free men, of individual freedom."
The operative word here appears to be "men," because the Republican Party most certainly is not the party of freedom when it comes to reproductive rights
, whether it's abortion, birth control or Planned Parenthood. And he probably meant to say "straight men," because we all know how outrageously free Republicans want gay people to be when it comes time to tie the knot. (Hint: West says gay marriage is an oxymoron
West also claimed the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution for the Republicans, which might be technically true, but the party name is the only thing that's persevered: West said when the 15th Amendment passed, "it was the Democrats who resorted to poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation and other pernicious practices in an effort to keep black Americans from exercising their right to vote."
There's no arguing voter surpression an under-handed tactic that's still very much a problem today. Unfortunately, it's the Republicans who are doing it now: A study several months ago found that laws in several states could keep as many as 5 million people
from voting -- largely young people, minorities, and the poor.
West might fault Democrats for poll taxes and literacy tests from more than 100 years ago, but now, whether it be in the form of tightening voter ID laws, restricting early voting, or simply calling black precincts
and telling them not to bother coming out, it's the Republicans who are trying to keep people from the polls.
And a lot of it is happening right here in Florida -- to which West has said nothing. Studies have found in states with early-voting programs that those systems were used disproportionately by minorities who couldn't vote on the Tuesdays of elections; some minority demographics had turnout proportions three times higher
on the Sunday before election day, according to Politico
Early voting was reduced from two weeks to one week. Voting on the Sunday before election day was eliminated. College students face new hurdles if they want to vote away from home. And those who register new voters face the threat of fines for procedural errors, prompting the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to suspend voter registration drives and accuse the Legislature of "reverting to Jim Crow-like tactics."
What is happening in Florida is part of a national trend, as election law has become a fierce partisan battleground. In states where Republicans have taken majority control, they have tightened rules for registering new voters, reduced the time for casting ballots and required voters to show photo identification at the polls. The new restrictions were usually adopted on party-line votes and signed by Republican governors.