Keith Ellison Says He Isn’t A Communist… Ain’t That What Commies Always Say?
As a young attorney, Abraham Lincoln once was challenged by a courtroom foe to ask him a question — any question — that couldn’t be answered by a simple “Yes,” or “No.”
“Have you stopped beating your wife,” Lincoln replied.
The question couldn’t be answered and didn’t need an answer; it was meant as a bludgeon, not a question, a way to insinuate a charge that could never quite be set aside, no matter how much Lincoln’s befuddled foil sputtered.
Today, all you have to do to “wrong-foot” your opposition is call them a Socialist or, more pointedly, a Communist. This week, a Republican Congressman from Florida named Allen West came out of his swamp to say, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.” Specifically, he said later, he was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has 80 members and is co-chaired by Keith Ellison, the Democratic Congressman from Minneapolis who may not be a Commie but who is the next best thing to mouth-breathers: Muslim. You may have noticed that the right-wing snake handlers who now control the Republican Party have been creeping up to this kind of thing for several years, tossing ever-more strident “Commie” allegations at Democrats: Socialists, they call them. Or worse, they charge that Democrats want to make us “like Europe.” With universal health care. Ewwww.
But Allen West is not just another yahoo. He’s the Tea Party’s Great Black Hope, a conservative black ex-military guy who they hope will be a great vice-presidential running mate for White-on-Rice Romney. West may be a demagog, but he’s not stupid, and when he casts the Commie slur on huge numbers of Democrats, it is with intent, and with malice.
Ellison responded angrily, issuing a statement that, unfortunately, amounted to a denial that he is a Communist. Which, of course, is exactly what you’d expect a Commie to say. Denying that you are a Communist is like denying that you have stopped beating your wife. It is to play a fool’s game. Which is why there is little you can do to dignify a demagog like West except challenge him to a duel.
Mud pies at 10 paces.
Politico compounded the problem by contacting the last Communists in America and asking them whether they have any members in Congress. “Nyet,” they replied. There they go again, the lying Commies! But this really isn’t funny. Making blanket accusations — “I have a list of Communists in the State Department” — is how the late Cheesehead Sen. Joe McCarthy came to terrorize American politics in the 1950s. It’s how tyranny gets a toe-hold, and it’s no laughing matter. Ellison’s statement said West’s behavior was “reminiscent” of McCarthyism. But “reminiscent” isn’t strong enough. “Reminiscent” means that West’s behavior “suggests” or brings to mind the tactics of Joe McCarthy.
No, it is worse than that.
Allen West, Tea Party Tool, Right-wing Republican, the anti-Obama, is deliberately embracing McCarthyism. Lock, stock and character assassination.
The country and its politics have declined that far: Right back to the cesspool of the Red Scares and
Herbert J. Edgar Hoover. (Thanks to B.L. for pointing out that I hoovered here by naming the wrong Hoover; I mean the one in the fishnet stockings).
* Are They Communists or Catspaws?” was the title of a notorious anti-Semitic pamphlet published in Minnesota in 1938.