Tammy Duckworth is a Democratic representative from Illinois who serves on the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. She was a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in the Iraq War, where she lost both of her legs as well as the use of her right arm. She received a Purple Heart. Allen West thinks she is un-American.
I admire the Tea Party. In their book The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism, Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson relate the stories of individuals organizing local tea party groups and gatherings. They have been practicing the tradition of politics at its American best, individuals gathering to promote and promulgate their views on politics and society, and have been quite successful at it. Although I am an ageing white male (though not terribly angry), I do not identify with the Tea Party, their politics, or their beliefs. But I appreciate their involvement in our political process, and I admire their success.
I also am fascinated by Sarah Palin, who has taught me more about politics and America than any other politician. We all knew that conservative men hated Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton because they were misogynists who despised women in power…until Sarah Palin came along, and they went wild for her. (Similarly, we all knew that conservatives were racists, until many jumped on the Herman Cain bandwagon during the 2012 Republican primaries.) Like the Tea Party, Sarah Palin speaks for a sizeable chunk of the American public. If we progressives want to do better at the polls, we would do well to study both what makes Sarah Palin attractive to so many Americans, and emulate the activities of the tea party which has led to their success both at the polls and in shaping the political discussion in the country.
I believe in Democracy, free and unfettered. Our constitution, and our nation with it, was forged in a clash of opinions. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, recognizing the weakness of the 13 states under the Articles of Confederation, vigorously promoted a stronger central government, attempting to persuade and convince their fellow Americans of the value of adopting the new Constitution through their 85 articles published as the Federalist Papers and still the premier source on the American theory of government. In opposition, the Anti-Federalists took pen to paper as well, writing under pseudonyms but likely George Clinton, a founding father and governor of New York, Robert Yates, influential New York politician and judge, Samuel Bryan, and others including Patrick Henry whose speeches were often included, creating the Anti-Federalist papers. Out of the disputes and differences of opinions among those gathered in Philadelphia, our Constitution and our nation were born.
Democracy is not an ideology. It doesn’t promise to do the right thing. Rather it is a process. Individuals come together in the political arena to convince and cajole in the hopes of moving the nation and our society a bit further in this direction or that. And our democracy is strongest when the most voices are heard, because we believe that even when we don’t get it right in the short run, it is our best hope for getting it right in the long run.
Allen West seems not to believe in these distinctly American values which have made us the great nation that we are. He does not believe in the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, or the rich history which is the American Experiment. And so when Americans do what they have been doing for the past 220 years or more, coming together formally and informally to discuss matters of importance to the nation, Allen West calls those who participate ‘disloyal’. When Democrats are appointed to the Benghazi committee, he sees them as traitors to the nation, which is what disloyalty is, since they are representing ideas and values different from his own. There are nations formed around a single, all-encompassing ideology. North Korea comes to mind. Maybe Allen West would be happier there.
Allen West has the right to his opinions. But his rejection of the American way makes him un-American.