Congressional Progressive Caucus

April 12, 2012 by staff 

Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Allen West, R-Florida, a Tea Party champion elected in 2010, has set off a storm of controversy by saying that a large number of his colleagues in Congress are Communists.

West singled out the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which Seattle’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott was a founding member.

West was asked by a constituent in Florida: “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists?”

“That’s a fair question: I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West replied. A moment later, he added: “It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

The accusation seemed straight out of the early 1950s, when Red-baiting Republican Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin claimed to have a list of “members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring” in the U.S. State Department. The “list” started at 205 names, later reduced to 81 names and then 57.

The reaction on Wednesday was swift. Unlike the case of Sen. McCarthy, where fellow Republicans (notably Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine) were quick to denounce extremism, the Congressional Progressive Caucus was left to defend itself.

“When people like Rep. West have no ideals or principles, they rely on personal attacks,” the group’s co-chairs, Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), said in a statement. They said West is “denigrating the millions of Americans” who have elected members of the Progressive Caucus.”

The Caucus currently includes 76 members in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives.

McDermott, an Episcopalian by religious affiliation and a progressive in his politics, professed to be sad more than mad — sad at the attitude West and other extreme members have brought to the “People’s House.”

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