One hundred days away from the November election, it seems increasingly likely that at least one—if not two or three—African American Republicans will win seats in the House on Election Day. South Carolina's Tim Scott is practically a lock, making him the first black Republican congressional representative to serve since Oklahoman JC Watts retired in 2003. Still fighting to be his compatriot, however, is the outspoken Allen West.
Running in Florida's 22nd district, West, a retired Army Lt. Col. who rather enjoys quoting famous warriors like Sun Tzu, has made it a point to attack President Obama at every opportunity. Here he is calling Obama "immature" after last month's General McChrystal flap; there he is chest thumping and demanding that Obama be "a man and a leader"; and here he is accusing the president of exploiting racial divisions for political gain. In May, perhaps high on a recent Sarah Palin endorsement, West minced words less than he ever had before: "I can't stand [Obama]," he told a crowd of supporters. "I absolutely can't stand him."
Thanks in no small part to the fact that our political landscape is more rabidly partisan than it’s been in years, it should be no surprise that West’s angry speechmaking has made him a conservative darling—and a wealthy one at that:
West … raised $1.4 million in the second quarter of 2010 – an astonishing number that puts him in the same league as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the inflammatory conservative who raked in $1.7 million over the same period … Republican officials expect West's haul to be the largest of any non-incumbent GOP candidate for the last three months.
Though West has a tough opponent in Democratic incumbent Rep. Ron Klein, who beat him by 10 points in 2008, this time around, the GOP upstart might have enough momentum (read: cash) to put him in office. In an internal poll from April, West had a narrow, two-point lead over Klein, and his blunt attacks on Obama are only making him more popular as the days wear on.
West, who wouldn't respond to requests for comment, is so sure of himself that he’s already eyeing a spot in the Congressional Black Caucus. This from an interview with The Daily Caller:
I think I have every right to. I would be in Congress, and I would be black and so I should be able to sit with them, and again, bring a different perspective.
West’s insistence, should he win, will no doubt prove problematic for the Caucus. In its 40-year history, the Congressional Black Caucus has had just two Republican members, the last of which, Gary Franks, left in 1997. Throughout his eight years in office, J.C. Watts refused to join the Caucus, calling its members "race-hustling poverty pimps."
In the past, the Caucus has said it would refuse to let partisanship impede its goal of improving the lives of black Americans. So far, however, not a single member of the Caucus has publicly addressed West's attempts at making inroads, meaning he may be in for a chilly reception if he's victorious in November. (A Congressional Black Caucus spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on West.)
For his part, West, who has said he'd like to totally eliminate the Departments of Energy and Education, doesn't expect to be welcomed into the Caucus, saying he thinks "they will just change their name to preclude me from joining it." Though he adds, "That's OK; I'll start my own caucus."
-Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.