Allen West is back, with a new mission.
And the newest venture for the soldier-turned-congressman-turned-full-time conservative provocateur is vintage West. He's out with a new book that doesn't pull any punches and most certainly doesn't soften the style that excites many Republicans — and infuriates Democrats.
"Guardian of the Republic" goes on sale Tuesday.
West said he isn't bothered by the April 1 publication date, chosen by Crown Forum, the Random House unit that publishes conservative authors. When it racks up impressive sales, he said, "The joke's going to be on the other side."
West said in an interview he hopes his readers will come away with a better sense of who he is and why he loves his country, get an education on classical political thought and how it affects politics today, and understand the scorn he said is unfairly heaped on black conservatives who are told, often in unpleasant terms, that "you're a disgrace, you're not following along the path that you should be on."
He said many people don't know him well — something he hopes to change through the book — because the portrayal of him in the mainstream media has been more caricature than reality.
Joanne Smith, a real estate agent from Deerfield Beach, said she already knows plenty about West. "I was just hoping I would never see his name again," she said. "For some reason, this guy got under my skin."
"He just says horrible things that aren't always true," she said. "Plus, I think he talks to people like they're beneath him. He's condescending. Plain and simple, he's not a nice person."
But Celeste Ellich, a real estate agent who lives in Wilton Manors, said she'll buy the book and attend a West book signing. (The publisher hasn't announced dates, but West, who owns a home in Plantation and lives in Palm Beach Gardens, said he'll host book signings in Broward and Palm Beach counties.)
Ellich said she has friends in other parts of the country who know who West is, and "they all just love him." She said she doesn't agree with West on everything, but she appreciates that he's a "tell-it-the-way-it-is kind of person."
West's explanation for the wildly divergent views: "There are people that appreciate a principled individual who's going to stand on the truth and there are those who don't want that. There are some people that they really don't want anyone who provides opposition to their ideology."
Though he hasn't been generating the kind of headlines he did during the two years he represented parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, West has been busy in the 17 months since he lost his bid for re-election:
• Building his political machine through a foundation, a political action committee, and endorsements of candidates in races where his word could help motivate campaign contributors and Republican primary voters.
His PAC, the Allen West Guardian Fund, raised $2.8 million in 2013. During one weekend-long "boot camp" last month, it took in $100,000.
• Spreading his message as a regular guest commentator on Fox News, through writings on his own website, by giving speeches and through social media.
The speakers bureau representing West puts his fee at $10,000 to $15,000 per appearance. West's Facebook likes have quintupled since he left office and now tops 965,000 likes and his Twitter followers have doubled to 270,000.
• Considering what political office he'll seek next.
West, 53, isn't running for anything in 2014. He's dropped hints about running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and got political gossipers chattering by making an appearance in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary.
Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University, said West is "still a rock star inside the Republican Party." But he said the rhetoric and style that make him popular with conservatives who dominate Republican primaries also make it more difficult to win general elections that require moderates' votes for victory.
• Writing the 216-page book, with the help of Michele Hickford, who worked in his congressional office and now works at his political action committee.
It wasn't difficult, West said, and he didn't experience any writer's block. "If you know what you believe in, and you know who you are, and someone asks you to put it down on paper, that's pretty easy. I finished the project about 70 days before the deadline."
In a world that's less dependent on a few major newspapers and television networks, Tallahassee political strategist Rick Wilson said West has seized on what other conservative icons — former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former South Carolina U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint — have discovered: They can have greater influence on the direction of the Republican Party from the outside than as elected officials.
"When you have powerful and charismatic individuals like West, they're going to get an audience," Wilson said.
By using strong language, West found an audience when he served in Congress from January 2011 to January 2013. His targets included U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. He called her "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. ... You have proven repeatedly that you are not a lady."
His rhetoric drives liberals crazy, and he's using the idea of agitating them to stoke his supporters' desire to buy "Guardian of the Republic."
Over the weekend, he urged his Facebook followers to pre-order the book because "I also know you'd love to irritate liberals as much as I do if my first book debuts on the best-seller list."
Read an exclusive interview with Allen West and take an online poll at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.
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