Commentary

President Allen West in America’s Future?

In what the media is touting as a historic event, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr. of New Orleans was recently elected as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the highest positions held by a black in that organization (“Southern Baptists Approve Steps Aimed at Diversity,” New York Times, June 15).

But much more prejudicially commonplace, as noted in a Human Rights Watch report cited by the ACLU, is that, since the nation’s so-called war on drugs began in 1971, “The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites” (“Drug Bust,” New York Times, June 11).

And while more Northern blacks are returning to their Southern roots for economic reasons, Candace Wilkins of Queens, N.Y., will be moving to Charlotte, N.C., because a white police officer in her neighborhood threw her against a car as she was trying to help a black neighbor who was being questioned forcefully by cops. She was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct (“For New Life, Blacks in City Head to South,” New York Times, June 21).

Said Wilkins: “My grandmother’s generation left the South and came to the North to escape segregation and racism. Now, I am going back because New York has become like the old South in its racial attitudes.”

Far from entirely, but Jim Crow flourishes in New York.

Meanwhile, a dynamic movement of independent black public figures, some of them already in or seeking political office, is entering the national consciousness. Consider Herman Cain, scoring well in polls of presidential candidates: “I label myself: American black conservative,” he recently said. “Deal with it.”

How can he say this at this time of a black president? Answers Cain:

“Every time somebody disagrees with the president, one of his surrogates want(s) to play the race card. Well, if the policies aren’t working, that’s not racial, that’s just simply a failed policy” (“Herman Cain campaigns in black and white,” Politico.com, June 18).

Last fall, while Tim Scott of South Carolina was successfully campaigning to become the first black Republican congressman from the Deep South in more than a century (ABC News, June 23), he unabashedly “told a mixed group of students at Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston, ‘I was flunking out of high school. I failed geography, civics, Spanish and English’ ” (“Black Republicans offer hope after Barack Obama’s failures on race,” The Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2010).

But he persevered, saying during his campaign about our present first black president’s eminent health program:

“Obamacare’s an atrocity around the necks of average Americans.” He added: “The election wasn’t so much about what Obama brought to the table. People voted for him because they wanted to feel good about themselves, that they weren’t racist.”

Endorsed by tea partiers, Scott said whenever race comes into the conversation, he reminds people that he’s “been black for a long time.” He wants to be judged on his character and policies rather than the color of his skin. “At Fort Dorchester, encouragingly enough, not one pupil asked Scott about race or why a black man would be a Republican.”

Scott told those students that he had been born into poverty, and “my dad was gone by the time I was 7.” And the students saw that he was running for the Congress of the United States, his own man.

Also among these black strikingly independent Republicans (but not party-line Republicans) is a man I hope will eventually run for president so that I may vote for him: Rep. Allen West of Florida. The first black Republican congressman from Florida since Josiah T. Walls in 1876, West says — and proves: “I’m not a career politician. I’m just being myself.”

In his 20 years of active duty (including tours in Iraq), rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel, he says of his Democratic rivals: “A black conservative from the inner city and retired military veteran is something that causes them concerns. I’m not (what they regard as) the typical victim.”

On June 20, the Miami Herald reported that “Allen West didn’t come to Washington to fit in with (the) crowd” — as he demonstrates to both parties.

If West, 50, decides to run for the presidency, he will repeat his criticism of Obama for essentially going to war in Libya without consulting Congress.

Said West: “President Barack Obama is in violation of the law — plain and simple — and he must be held accountable. … The very foundation of our republic lies on the system of checks and balances, and as a member of the United States Congress, I have a constitutional obligation to ensure this system is upheld.”

I may ultimately have some disagreements with a President West, but I’ll sure know wholly who he is. He’ll not be leading from behind.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.