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Tea Party finds bearded Marxist running for office in Delaware

[float=right]IMAGE(http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2384/2414608671_34c1c72f85_m.jpg)[/float]..except he's not bearded and he's not a Marxist, he's a liberal Democrat who fights for working families.

In May 1985 Chris Coons wrote an article for his college newspaper, The Amherst Student, titled “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist.

In September 2010, the article has Tea Party members and some republicans convinced they’ve found a smoking gun. Chris is a Democrat running for US Senate in Delaware.

What did Chris mean when he wrote “a Bearded Marxist?” How did he come to write it?

… Coons, then 21 years old and about to graduate from Amherst College, chronicled his transformation from a sheltered, conservative-minded college student who had worked for former GOP Delaware Sen. William Roth and had campaigned for Ronald Reagan in 1980 into a cynical young adult who was distrustful of American power and willing to question the American notion of free enterprise [as a “miracle” that is a singularly effective solution for wealth creation and which reliably provides for the basic needs of the people in the world.]

(Politico, “Coons took 'bearded Marxist' turn”, 5/3/2010 link)

Chris Coons had worked for Delaware’s Senator William Roth, a Republican, and campaigned for Ronald Reagan. He was active in conservative politics and had even been a “proud founding member of the Amherst College Republicans.” Still, over the course of four years in college, which included a semester in Africa, Chris changed his thinking as a result of questioning some of his beliefs, specifically the beliefs that defied facts he confronted in the world around him. In that article, Coons wrote that:

The source of his conversion [from Republican to Democrat] … was a trip to Kenya he took during the spring semester of his junior year—a time away from America, he wrote, that served as a “catalyst” in altering a conservative political outlook that he was growing increasingly uncomfortable with.

“ My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists,” Coons wrote…

Chris Coons never claimed to have transformed into a bearded Marxist: His friends teased him that Kenya had somehow turned him from a “clean-shaven, clear-thinking American” into a “bearded Marxists.” Chris used the phrase to explain how his friends responded to the changes they noticed in him. They teased him because they were friends. And Chris, by using the phrase in his article was poking fun at himself as they had, even as he took the subject of the article very seriously. On the occasion of his commencement, he wrote for all of campus to read, how his experiences in college had changed him.

At his 25th reunion in June 2010, Chris told an audience of classmates and their families and faculty who attended, the story about his mother’s response to the article at his graduation, twenty-five years prior. She had told him it would be misconstrued at some point and that it would come back to bite him. He laughed, telling his audience: Mothers are always right.

Dave Hoffman, a Coons campaign spokesman, said the title of the article was designed as a humorous take-off on a joke Coons’s college friends had made about how his time outside the country had affected his outlook.

Hoffman said the trip to Kenya helped lead to Coons’s decision to become a Democrat.

“Chris wrote an article about a transformative experience during his semester in Kenya more than twenty-five years ago,” said Hoffman in a statement to POLITICO. “After witnessing crushing poverty and the consequences of the Reagan Administration’s ‘constructive engagement’ with the South African apartheid regime, he rethought his political views, returned to the America he loved and proudly registered as a Democrat.”

Chris Coons saw a great deal of poverty in Africa and was shocked by the dismissive attitudes the wealthy had for the poor. Their attitudes made him question his own beliefs about the poor in America.

For Coons, Kenya was an especially jarring experience that significantly influenced his already-changing political beliefs. He wrote that he was particularly troubled by his experience with Kenyan elites, who he said were utterly dismissive of the poor.

“I became friends with a very wealthy businessman and his family and heard them reiterate the same beliefs held by many Americans: the poor are poor because they are lazy, slovenly, uneducated,” wrote Coons. “I realize that Kenya and America are very different, but experiences like this warned me that my own favorite beliefs in the miracles of free enterprise and the boundless opportunities to be had in America were largely untrue.”

Coons wrote that upon his return to Amherst for his senior year he realized that, while he had discovered the faults of his country, he had also “returned to loving America.”

The article Chris Coons wrote for the commencement edition of his college newspaper, titled “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist” was about his education and the self-reflection that guided him to decide to be a Democrat.

That said, to the Tea Party, what’s the difference between Marxist and progressive Democrat? Not much I think, maybe a whisker.


UPDATE 1: Chris was on DailyKos today answering questions about his campaign and his values. In a response to a comment from Joan McCarter:

Subj: Welcome to Daily Kos

and thanks for being here. We’re all celebrating this week, but I’m glad to see that you’re taking this one seriously. There’s going to be a lot of Tea Party money pouring into your state.

Chris Coons said:

Subj: Tea Party Support

Thanks! You’re right – there will be lots of support from around the country given the profile of her primary win. I would be grateful for your support so we can match their money coming in from the national Tea Party and NRSC! [or donate via Act Blue]

Of course Chris has quite a fund raising challenge on his hands, as Christine O’Donnell is the Tea Party’s darling and money is pouring in from all over the country. She’s raised $1,000,000 Tuesday. See O’Donnell Hauls In $1 Million, Coons Takes In $125,000 by Sam Stein, Huffington Post.

: Dave Weigel gives the "issue" his due consideration "Of Beards and Marxism".


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I was surprised by John McLaughlin's lack preparedness in talking about Chris Coons which led John to repeat a false talking point identifying Coons as a Marxist. John prides himself in putting facts, reason and intellect before ideology and in the case, he failed.

Coons is a well educated man who attended Amherst College where he got his BA in chemistry and political science, and Yale where he got his JD at the law school and MAR at the Divinity school.

When Coons arrived at Amherst he was a Republican who campaigned for Reagan and he also worked for Sen Roth (R-DE). When Coons registered as a Democrat his friends called him a bearded Marxist and so Chris used the same phrase to describe himself (with a sense of humor) describing his own political conversion from Republican to Democrat.

Shame of John McLaughlin for allowing laziness to perpetuate a false narrative about Chris Coons.

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