Posted Friday, July 22, 2011, at 12:35 PM
Does Allen West hate women? That's a question explored by Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast, and the answer seems to be more that Allen West hates everyone. That doesn't spare him from being a sexist, however, since his hatred for women has an ugly, gendered tone to it, as evidenced by his strange war on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose main sin seems to be a willingness to disagree with West while in possession of a vagina, causing West to claim she's "not a Lady." This, in turn, has caused a lot of speaking from feminist-minded women who are sick to the teeth of grown women being addressed in exactly the same terms that my grandmother used for me when I displayed bad manners ... and I was five years old.
That said, calling a Democrat "not a Lady" and claiming that liberal women are the source of the country's economic woes because we supposedly neuter men are, if anything, the least worrisome parts of the entire Allen West phenomenon. More disturbing is the evidence that West is unhinged and may have a personality disorder, but this not only doesn't bother the voters who elected him into office, but seems to delight them. As Goldberg recounts, West acts erratically, lashes out randomly, has a victim complex that makes Sarah Palin look thick-skinned, and has acted out violently from his rage issues. But the space between Tea Party ideology and unhinged rage is whisker-thin.
West is a symptom of a larger problem: The most famous political force in the country right now, the Tea Party, has embraced a conservatism that is defined by being angry, bigoted, ignorant, and proud of it. It's less about coherent politics and more a club for people who have a chip on their shoulders because they confuse getting the stink-eye for saying nutty, mean-spirited things with actual oppression.
It's not that I'm clutching my pearls at colorful rhetoric and blatant mockery, two avenues of political discourse I enjoy quite a bit. But there is -- or should be -- a difference between a willingness to be abrasive and unhinged anger issues like West's. The line should be drawn long before lionizing people for doing things like torturing prisoners of war, something West was disciplined by the Army for doing. Instead, we now live in a country where such vicious behavior can make you a hero in the eyes of the Tea Party, to the point where it elevates you to Congress.