Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) delivered a fiery speech about Black History Month on the House floor Wednesday evening, praising the Republican Party for its tradition of "standing up for the rights of African Americans" and accusing Democrats of perpetuating an "insidious form of slavery" through their support for entitlement programs.
"Our party firmly believes in the safety net," West said in the speech, first flagged by The Hill. "We reject the idea of the safety net becoming a hammock."
"For this reason, the Republican value of minimizing government dependence is particularly beneficial to the poorest among us," he continued. "Conversely, the Democratic appetite for ever-increasing redistributionary handouts is in fact the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today, and it does not promote economic freedom."
The majority of West's address was focused on recounting the GOP's legacy on civil rights. He argued that the party had spearheaded many pro-racial equality pushes since President Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. West said the idea held by many modern spectators that this was the last good deed the GOP had done for African Americans was offensive to the party's history.
As West recounted historical actions taken by Republicans throughout the 19th century and first half of the 20th century -- making sure to call out the Democrats who opposed them -- the congressman discussed the efforts of former Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) on the first Civil Rights Act of 1964, then skipped ahead 30 years to the work of congressional Republicans who campaigned for welfare reform in the 1990s and for school choice under then-President George W. Bush.
"It's been the Republican Party that has fought to prevent African-Americans from being trapped in a permanent underclass through dependence on government handouts," West said. "Republicans have been on the front lines for equal rights and individual manifest destiny since our party's founding under Lincoln."
"With a core belief in the supremacy and the sovereignty of the individual, and the unconditional dignity of every human life, the Republican party is, always has been and forever shall be, the party of equality, of opportunity. Happy Black History month," West concluded.
West is currently running for reelection in Florida's 18th Congressional District, which he switched to after having served the 22nd District for a term. He faces challenges from a Democrat, a Republican and perhaps a Tea Party candidate.