Allen West and the Congressional Black Caucus 

Of all the developments worth following these days, from the vigorous Republican insurgency to the apathetic Obama presidency, I’d like to add another: the relationship between the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Republican freshman Allen West of Florida.

West, 50, is the first Republican to join the CBC since Congressman Gary Franks of Connecticut. In his three terms in the House, 1990 to 1996, Franks joined the black caucus, threatened to quit, then recanted and signed on again. 

Until West and Tim Scott of South Carolina were elected in 2010, there had been no black Republicans in the House since Franks’s departure. Scott was unequivocal about spurning the CBC’s invitation. “My campaign was never about race,” he said. “My campaign was about themes that unite all Americans.”

But West, a former Army lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was eager to join. It wasn’t because he represents a large black constituency – quite the contrary. His oceanfront district, which stretches from Jupiter and Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, is only 5 percent black and includes some of the richest (and predominantly white) enclaves in the country. “My parents would have been highly upset if I hadn’t done this,” he told me.

West is one of the most prominent of the 87 members of the House Republican freshman class. A Republican operative, who watched dozens of the freshmen as they campaigned, rated West the most impressive candidate of the 2010 class. After losing his first bid for a House seat in 2008, he ousted Democratic incumbent Ron Klein, 53 percent to 46 percent.

Chances are, West and the CBC’s 42 Democratic members won’t find much on which to agree—unless he pulls them to the right...

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Fred Barnes


Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard

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