One of Congress's top Islamophobes, Republican Rep. Allen West, lost his reelection bid to Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy early this morning. With 100 percent of votes in from South Florida's 18th District, Murphy edged out the Tea Party freshman West by less than 2,500 votes, despite lopsided fundraising. West spent more than $17 million to Murphy's $3.6 million, and both candidates poured money into ads that made the race one of the country's nastiest.
In the House, West earned a reputation as a ferocious right-wing attack dog. The unfounded accusations that dozens of Communists populate the Congress's Democratic caucus were nothing new, but his most novel legacy may be West's inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims. Along with Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN), West used his time in Congress to press his case that Islam is "not a religion" but a "totalitarian theocratic political ideology," and that terrorism is inherent to the faith—not radical Islam, but Islam, writ large. He's accused a fellow Member of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, of "represent(ing) the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established."
If all that wasn't bad enough, West has shared a stage with America's foremost anti-Muslim activist, Pamela Geller (who was recently in the news again). When he was called out for his ties to bigots like Geller and asked to respect Muslims' right to worship freely, his one-word response made an apparent comparison between the request and Nazi overtures for an American surrender in World War II.
During this cycle, West took a break from campaigning to commemorate 9/11 by embracing the cause the Geller pushed to the fore in the summer of 2010: a campaign against the building of an Islamic community center near the Ground Zero site in downtown Manhattan. West used his congressional position to host a screening of a film from an Islamophobic group about the so-called Ground Zero Mosque on the eleventh anniversary of the attacks.
West's views were so far outside the mainstream that his Republican primary opponent, Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder, endorsed the Democrat Murphy last week. "As a Republican for over 30 years, I'm embarrassed by the radical fringe that has taken over the party. Sadly, Allen West is their poster child, and the hateful, divisive comments he's made throughout this campaign make it clear to me he’s the wrong choice for our district," Crowder said in a statement.
In Tuesday's election, Murphy's fate was closely tied to President Obama's winning reelection effort. Though too close to call in the presidential race, Obama won the same two of three counties in the 18th Congressional District that Murphy did. West and Obama's erstwhile opponent Mitt Romney both carried Martin Country, whereas Murphy and the president both took St. Lucie and Palm Beach Counties.
In Palm Beach County, Obama faced right-wing "pro-Israel" ads that dovetailed with West's frequent messaging that the longtime American policy pushed by the president will destroy Israel and questioning Obama's "commitment to the safety and security of the Jewish state."
Though West lost, his fellow congressional Islamophobes King and Bachmann fared better—winning and hanging on in a race too close to call, respectively. Nonetheless, given West's visibility, the Florida loss can on its own be seen as a victory for the religious tolerance and liberty, indeed, "upon which this country was established."
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