Do you know Allen West? If not, you should. A lot of folks think he'll be president someday.
He's a 50-year-old Army vet and the congressman from Florida's 22nd District—a polyglot district stretching from the ghettos of northern Fort Lauderdale to the snootiest enclaves of Palm Beach County. West was booted from the military in 2004 after torturing an Iraqi cop whom he suspected of plotting a surprise attack on his unit.
West's subsequent reprimand and forced resignation became a minor media event and earned him plenty of fans, none of whom were too concerned that the cop was probably innocent. "If it's about the lives of my soldiers at stake," said West, "I'd go through hell with a gasoline can." That's pure catnip to a certain kind of American; the kind that pines for an old-fashioned desperado to lead us through the encircling throngs of blubbery bureaucrats who've gummed up our institutions and made us feel inferior to the commie Chinese. (With whom West thinks we should enter an arms race.) After his discharge, West received thousands of supportive letters from Americans around the country.
The erstwhile Lieutenant Colonel Allen West put in time as a high school history teacher before launching an unsuccessful campaign for the House of Representatives in 2008. He finally attained national office in 2010, on the strength of rabble-rousing videos like the one featured here.
Nowadays, he's most famous for sparring with terrified Democrats at town hall meetings, and for his relentless Muslim-baiting. Put a microphone in front of the man, and he'll recount the names and dates of every skirmish between a Western military power and an army of Mohammedans from the 7th century onwards. (Only he doesn't call them "Western military powers" and "armies of Mohammedans," but rather "us" and "the Muslims.") It's a lucrative schtick, because in the last quarter, Lt. Col. Rep. West managed to raise an unbelievable $1.5 million for his re-election campaign.
That might not sound like much, and compared to the money that gets tossed around in presidential campaigns, it isn't. But Allen West is a representative—the lowest form of congressional life. And he's a freshman. Yet he's managed to out-raise Florida's senatorial candidates. In the last quarter, George Lemieux, the super-establishment GOPer who worked as Gov. Charlie Crist's Chief of Staff, raised only $950,000 to run against entrenched Democrat Bill Nelson. No other Sunshine State candidate even came within spitting distance of West's numbers. The Democrat who intends to run for West's seat in 2012, a young man named Patrick Murphy, briefly felt like a big man for raising $400,000 last quarter. No longer.
What's it mean? Why should you care? Well, the smart money's beginning to hint that Allen West will abort his run at a second House term and head straight for the Senate. If so, he'll kick ass. As the Miami Herald pointed out, West's current district is full of liberals. If he runs for Senate, his political fate will be decided largely by north Floridians. Those are Terry Jones' people, and they like Allen West. A lot.
The goal of Allen West's political life seems to be to rebrand the United States' "War on Terror" as part of an ongoing, millenium-long struggle between the forces of Islam and the forces of Christendom. He's never explained what victory would look like, perhaps because the details would be too ghastly for even the most bloodthirsty Islamophobes to think about. The closest he's come to offering specifics is implying that Palestinians ought to be relocated to Jordan. And, maybe, this: On July 24th, West will sponsor a Capitol Hill briefing on the state of the Muslim Brotherhood's infiltration of America. The group responsible for the briefing, Citizens For National Security, will report the findings of four task forces, the job of one of which is to identify "Islamic" businesses, social and religious organizations, schools, and so on, throughout North America.
Not "terrorist" businesses, or even "Wahabbist" or "conservative Muslim" businesses. Just "Islamic" businesses.
This is apparently what wins you campaign donations in the United States of America, 2011. A quick googling reveals that the "Draft Allen West for President" movement has more devotees than that of any other representative in the country. Muslims, take note: It's West's world. You're just living in it.
[Photo via AP]