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Why Did Florida Fire Allen West?

The rapid rise and sudden fall of one of the Tea Party’s biggest stars
Why Did Florida Fire Allen West?
Photograph by Douglas Graham/Getty Images

Allen West is still surprised that Florida’s voters have kicked him out of Congress after only two years. “Why would anyone want to get rid of a person that is born and raised in the inner city, third of four generations in the military—just an American success story?” asks West, from the living room of his Palm Beach Gardens home overlooking a pool and golf course. “I’m not some guy that came from a rich political family or anything like that,” he says. “I’m just an everyday guy, but I have a passion for my country.”

Just a few months ago, West was a Republican hero. A former Army officer who came to Washington in the wave of successful Tea Party candidates in 2010, he quickly made a name for himself as a blunt spokesman for the right wing. His strangle-the-government rhetoric and abrasive style was in tune with a party in the mood for a fight. He called President Obama “probably the dumbest person walking around in America” and said scores of Democrats in Congress were secretly members of the Communist Party. He won a national following among conservatives, who talked about him as a possible vice presidential candidate.