PJMedia Exclusive: A Talk with Congressman Allen West
Q. You have been representing Florida’s 22nd Congressional District for nine months now. Is there anything about Congress or being a congressman that has totally shocked or surprised you?
A. What has shocked me most of all is how easily facts seem to disappear when you cross the Potomac River. It seems on Capitol Hill the goal is to distort the facts, and as a result, the truth is in short supply.
Q. You have claimed to be “the modern day Harriet Tubman” for your commitment to leading African Americans away from the “plantation” of the Democratic Party, as she led slaves from the plantation to the underground railroad. Are you making any progress?
A. The first step in making progress is building awareness -- making sure the African American community knows there is a way out of poverty and despair. The same way Harriet Tubman showed a path forward, my goal is to do the same. Government dependency does not create wealth.
But it’s not a message limited by race. The route all Americans have taken to advancement and prosperity is by embracing our constitutional principles of individualism and self-determination.
Q. Is it even possible to make substantial progress in this area since most African Americans and the Democrats are glued together as political allies?
A. It is certainly a challenge. The liberal progressive policies of the modern Democrat Party, while well-intentioned, have done great damage to African American families and their economic progress over the last five decades since passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Unemployment in the African American community stands at 16.7%, food stamp enrollment is up, and nearly three-quarters of all black children do not live with their biological fathers.
The policies since the War on Poverty have been a failure. Welfare programs devised by the left to aid single mothers have instead worked perversely to incentivize more young women to have children out of wedlock.
High minimum wages advocated by labor unions -- from whom Democrats receive tremendous financial support -- mean employers are less apt to hire unskilled African American youths -- or any youths for that matter.
For the left, “spending on education” generally means job protection and preserving benefits for school administrators and teachers unions, rather than actually improving education for students in public schools, where African American students can build a foundation for economic advancement.
Even environmental policies have hurt the economic progress of African Americans. In cities such as San Francisco, severe building restrictions drive real estate prices through the roof, making neighborhoods where they once lived unaffordable.
Q. You have already threatened to quit the Congressional Black Caucus over what you called “racially motivated rhetoric” by members aimed at the tea party, but decided to remain a member. What future behavior by Congressional Black Caucus members would cause you to say “enough is enough” and force you to quit the caucus?
A. The Congressional Black Caucus needs to have an open dialogue and more than one viewpoint. After all, it is the Congressional Black Caucus, not the Progressive Black Caucus. Today there is a voice of constitutional conservatism in the CBC, and I will do my best to make sure that is a permanent voice. My goal is for that voice to grow. I have never been a quitter, and I do not plan to be one now.
Q. Have you received any backlash from African American voters in your district (approximately 5.6% of voters) when they heard about how you are trying to lead them from away from the “plantation” of the Democratic Party?
Q. Though you won in 2010 in a mid-term election, your congressional district was won by Gore (51%), Kerry (51%), and Obama (52%) in the last three presidential elections. What is your strategy for convincing the majority of Democrat-leaning voters in your district who did not show up to vote in the 2010 mid-term election but will likely show up to vote in 2012?
A. Simply telling the truth. If voters want more of the same failed economic policies we have seen in the last three years, with unemployment at 9.1%, a deficit projected to be approximately $1.5 trillion this year, a national debt that has skyrocketed to more than $14.2 trillion, hundreds of regulations being handed down by unelected czars which are strangling our small business job creators, then they should get out and vote for the Democrat candidates.
However, I believe the American people and the constituents of South Florida know our ship of state is on the wrong course. They feel America’s better days are behind us. But if they want to get this ship back on course, if they want our country’s future to be better for their children and grandchildren, they must elect constitutional conservatives who will reverse the very dangerous direction in which this country is currently being led.
Q. As you are well aware, the national Democratic Party is targeting you for defeat. How does it feel to have a huge target on your back?
A. I’m a soldier. If you want to motivate a soldier, tell him you want a fight. When you pick a fight with a soldier, we love it … and you’ll get defeated.
Q. It has been speculated that you are most likely to face former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel as your Democrat opponent in 2012. Currently on Ms. Frankel’s campaign web site is a fundraising banner that states:
Stop Allen West and his radical backers. Contribute now!
What is your plan to counter her argument that you are too radical for your district? Especially when you seem to have a knack for making news headlines that could be perceived by Democrats and independents as “too radical.”
A. Tell me what is too radical about limiting the growth of the federal government. Tell me what is too radical about reducing out-of-control spending and restoring fiscal responsibility. Tell me what is too radical about setting the conditions for businesses to grow, thrive, create jobs, and help our communities prosper. Tell me what is too radical about protecting our way of life. What I find shocking is that so many on the left think it’s “too radical” to return to the constitutional principles on which our great nation was founded.
Q. Take a look at Lois Frankel's campaign site. What are the most misleading or inaccurate items about you that she has posted on the site?
A. I don’t care what she says about me. What I find misleading is how she characterizes her business-as-usual progressive “tax and spend” policies as better for our congressional district and our nation, when they have clearly failed the American people. I see no ideas there, just typical liberal character assassination politics … which will fail, just as their policies have.
Q. According to the respected Cook Political Report you are included on the list of top ten Republicans vulnerable for defeat because of redistricting. If your new district does end up including more Democrat or independent leaning voters and as a result you would have to tailor your message to appeal to them or face a certain defeat, on which major issues of the day could you consider compromise in order to win re-election?
A. I’m not going to tailor my message. “Politicians” tailor their message. My message is simple, and remains consistent. We must return to our constitutional principles of limited government and the defense of our citizens and their freedoms. At the end of the day, I believe people are looking for leaders who are principled, pragmatic, passionate, and patriotic. Americans no longer want retread career politicians looking for their next gig.
Q. You are a terrific speaker, an American patriot, a true conservative, a bold leader, and a “rising star” on the national political scene. As a result, money will pour in from outside your congressional district to aid in what will be, by all accounts, a tough re-election campaign.
Are you concerned that your Democrat opponent will use your national “rising star” status and all the outside funding against you? How will you counter the argument, sure to be used, that you are more interested in being a national conservative leader than in representing your Florida district?
A. I’m running for reelection in to the United States House of Representatives. I’m glad my message resonates on a national scale. I am glad people are listening and support this message of limited constitutional government. The constituents of the congressional district recognize this country needs a course correction in 2012 and Americans around the nation realize we need to support strong leaders to Washington, D.C., to address our nation’s most pressing issues. The people in this district like having a national leader, not a liberal puppet.
Q. Many Americans believe that our nation’s best days are behind us? Do you?
A. Absolutely not -- I believe in the American spirit. I believe that America is a shining city on a hill. I believe our nation is a lighthouse which sends out a beacon of light around the world illuminating the principles of liberty, justice, and freedom. We have faced challenges from the Depression, to Pearl Harbor, to September 11, and what we learned is that even in the darkest moments in our history, we are able to see a light at the end of the tunnel and have reemerged stronger as a nation and as a people.
Q. As a former military officer, who is your favorite American military hero?
A. Without question, General George S. Patton.
Q. Who is your political role model currently serving in elective office?
A. It’s only been nine months since I was sworn in, so you’re not going to get my admiration in such a short amount of time. However, there are a number of individuals, including senior members, whose advice I value.
Congressman West, thank you for your time. Many PJM readers and residents of your district look forward to watching you fight for your first re-election bid in a newly drawn district. We wish you well.