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Allen West wants a reward

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Allen West wants a reward
Allen West wants a reward

In a rather ridiculous display, even by 2012 standards, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) told constituents this week that there are 78 and 81 members of the "Democrat Party" in Congress who are "members of the Communist Party."

This was further evidence, not only of West's unhinged personality, but also of the depths of the political discourse.

On Wednesday, West's strange red-scare antics became national news. On Friday, West decided he wants to be rewarded for his strange red-scare antics.

Rep. Allen West is using his comment that about 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party to raise money for his re-election bid.The Florida Republican, a top target for defeat this fall, sent a fundraising pitch today asking for help to fight the "destructive policies of the extreme left."

While I suppose efforts like these are inevitable -- for all I know, they're effective -- what's disconcerting is the system of rewards that's come into play lately.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), for example, heckled President Obama during a speech to a joint session of Congress a few years ago, shouting "you lie!" when the president was actually telling the truth. As a result of his outburst, Wilson became a right-wing cause celebre -- the far-right backbencher was suddenly popular with other unhinged Republicans and Wilson's fundraising soared.

The problem is the system of incentives: if you're a politician who wants to be noticed and get a fundraising bump, you're going to have to say and/or do something stupid.

Instead of feeling shame or embarrassment, West accused nearly half of the House Democratic caucus of being "members of the Communist Party," and now he feels entitled to some kind of prize.

Democratic politics just doesn't seem to work this way. If a House Dem said there are 80 House Republicans who, whether they admit it or not, are fascists, the expectation would be that he or she would apologize, not send out a fundraising letter seeking a reward.

West, meanwhile, continues to see his name referenced as a possible vice presidential nominee. It's unclear whether his "commie" outbursts will help or hurt his chances, which only helps reinforce the larger point.