New Republican U.S. Representative Allen West (FL-22), has begun fulfilling his campaign promise to hold monthly Town Hall meetings in the counties he serves, Broward and Palm Beach. In the process, he appears to be honoring a more covert commitment, immediately prioritizing his core Christian Right Wing base rather than reaching out to a more diverse, representative range of cultures and viewpoints that comprise his overall constituency.
West's first Town Hall was held in Broward County, not at a civic or community or government center, but at the South Florida Bible College. The crowd of hundreds listened in hushed silence as he advocated cuts to Social Security and Medicare, the bedrock programs that keep millions of elderly and disabled Floridians living in dignity, rather than in destitution.
West's upcoming Palm Beach County Town Hall will be held at St. Mark's Catholic School in Boynton Beach.
Talk about "preaching to the choir", there would seem to be a bit of a pattern here.
Of course, politics being politics, and the West team being anything but stupid, you can probably count on seeing West wearing a yarmulke at a synagogue sometime soon, then perhaps a Town Hall at a Haitian church"maybe even at a - dare I say - government meeting place of some sort.
If and when those politically correct moves are made, they won't matter nearly as much as first impressions. First impressions are signal-senders and tone-setters. They deserve to be duly noted.
Besides the Bible Belt bent of the chosen venues for West's first two Town Halls, another early takeaway here is his clear commitment to remaking the two most successful American government programs of the twentieth century, Social Security and Medicare.
Gung-ho military man that he is, West wants to help lead the charge in a war being waged against what Republicans like new House Budget Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) like to label "entitlements" - yet another example of the GOP's use of sneering language to discredit something or someone in their crosshairs and under attack.
At your own peril, forget that Medicare is administered by the
government with unbelievably low overhead costs and saves millions of of
lives. Forget that independent budget analysis has shown that while
Social Security is now running in deficit mode for the first time, it is
in no imminent danger whatsoever, and that to shore it up for the long
haul all that's needed is a gradual increase in the payroll tax cap.
But, if your primary political agenda and related fiscal policy
objectives are to avoid raising taxes on millionaires and to lower taxes
on huge corporations already making record profits, then the only way
to do that and still balance budgets is to drain and divert funds from
the Social Security and Medicare systems. Cut, slash, slice and dice.
The reverse Robin Hood thing, taking from the poor and giving to the
rich. Or if you prefer a different analogy, how about reverse Socialism,
as in redistribution of the wealth, from the bottom up.
In a nutshell, that is the Republican equation on fiscal policy. Cuts in Social Security & Medicare = tax giveaways to rich individuals and corporations.
Part of the con game that the GOP plays on these issues is repeated messaging that seniors already on Social Security and Medicare - as in millions of dependable old voters - need not worry about cuts. Only middle aged and younger folks who haven't yet directly benefited from the programs need worry about ever being able to. Isn't that special?
One wonders what all the middle-aged and younger citizens who voted for Allan West or failed to turn out and vote for moderate Democrat Ron Klein in last November's election, what exactly they will think to themselves and say to one another, as they gradually come to grips with the trap they fell into - if they come to grips with the trap they fell into.
Will there be an understanding and admission that they were bamboozled into thinking "Big Government" was something to vote against, or to avoid voting for? When, in fact, it is that very government that has done such a solid job of administering the Medicare and Social Security programs that have been lifelines for so many of their own parents, and may still be for them?
It would help if someone (hmm, let's see, maybe the Florida
Democratic Party?) was already doing the strong and steady
multi-platform communications job that needs to be done to help people
of all ages, races, nationalities, faiths and socioeconomic situations
in FL CD-22 to understand just how frighteningly narrow a range of
interests and issues Congressman West is focusing on.
Indeed, all citizens, regardless of their demographic profile, have reason to fear the anti-government, "Us vs. Them" politics of Allen West. In addition to going after Social Security and Medicare, consider some of the other stands that he has taken in recent weeks. Even the wealthy, who may think politicians like West are on their side, should be able to figure out that these policies can create a degree of societal divide and damage that ultimately will interfere even with their own socioeconomic security.