After he called members of Congress’ Progressive Caucus “Communists,” several commentators compared Congressman Allen West to Joe McCarthy.
It’s a bad comparison.
McCarthy’s charges were dishonest at best, paranoid at worst, and he did a lot of damage to a lot of of people and to the country as a whole. But give him credit for one thing–he did know what a communist was.
West, on the other hand, is a loon and an embarrassment even by the standards of today’s Tea Party GOP. (Google him if you are unfamiliar with his delusional worldview.) I doubt he could define “communist” if his life depended on it. His latest paranoid rant is worth mentioning only because it is a slightly exaggerated example of a much more common–and worrisome–aspect of what passes for political discourse these days.
Increasingly, Americans use words as epithets, rather than to communicate ideas. Terms like “liberal” “evangelical” “socialist” “fascist” and the like are thrown around by people who clearly have no idea what those labels mean. The result is that we no longer have arguments between people who hold different points of view, we have tantrums. As a colleague of mine noted a few months ago, after one disheartening episode of political pique, when a serious legislator suggests a course of action, he won’t be countered with reasons why that proposal is flawed, but with the functional equivalent of “you’re a poopy-head!”
In a sane world, people like Allen West would be medicated, not elected to Congress.