Chris Coons: “Bearded Marxist” Or Typical Democrat ?

Conservatives have latched on to a few words in a decade-old article by Democrat Chris Coons in their efforts to boost the candidacy of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware.

Ever since Christine O’Donnell won on Tuesday, many on the right, including Rush Limbaugh and Senator Jim DeMint, have attempted to get mileage out of a column that her Democratic opponent wrote back when he was a 21 year-old college student:

An article Democrat Chris Coons wrote for his college newspaper may not go over so well in corporation-friendly Delaware, where he already faces an uphill battle for Vice President Joe Biden’s old Senate seat.

The title? “Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist.”

In the article, 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.

Coons, the New Castle County executive who is running against GOP Rep. Michael Castle for the state’s open Senate seat, wrote of his political evolution in the May 23, 1985, edition of the Amherst Student.

The source of his conversion, Coons wrote, 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, noting that at one time he had been a “proud founding member of the Amherst College Republicans.”

“[I]t is only too easy to return from Africa glad to be American and smugly thankful for our wealth and freedom,” added Coons. “Instead, Amherst had taught me to question, so in turn I questioned Amherst, and America.”

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.

It would, of course, be interesting to see the article itself, and I’m sure that will surface shortly. Based on how it’s described, however, it seems clear to me that David Weigel’s assessment is on the nose:

Folks, the guy was talking about a joke his friends were making. After the column he went into politics, then the private sector, then back into politics as a politician in New Castle County. He’s spent six years as county executive, which would have been a great place to try out Marxist theory. Sadly, he became a pretty standard cut-some-spending-increase-property-taxes hack.

If he were really a Marxist, don’t you think there would be some evidence in his governing record ?

No, wait, I already know the answer. He’s a secret Marxist right ?

Coons is a Northeastern liberal Democrat, which means I most likely would never vote for him if given the chance, but trotting out the tired Glenn Beck “Marxism” nonsense strikes me as pretty lame.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Africa, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. wr says:

    Not only a Marxist — but look where he picked up his evil commie indoctrination… Kenya!

    Clearly this is phase two of the Kenyan invasion that will implement Sharia law in the USA.

    This message brought to you by Zelsdorf Ragshaft III.

  2. “bearded Marxist” or typical Democrat?  You mean there is a difference?

    For the record, I am a Democrat, and I’d like to confirm that I do indeed want to abolish heterosexual marriage, confiscate all private property, and make Church attendance a punishable offense.  I also hate baseball, apple pie, and puppies… especially puppies.

  3. EJ says:

    ““bearded Marxist” or typical Democrat?  You mean there is a difference?”

    I was waiting for that joke.

  4. anjin-san says:

    How much longer before Kenyan forces arrive on our shores and sweep our way of life into the gutter?

  5. swift boater says:

    It would, of course, be interesting to see the article itself, and I’m sure that will surface shortly. Based on how it’s described, however, however it seems to me that Dave Weigel’s assessment is on the nose. 

    Way to be open minded there, Doug.  First you say that you should read the article ( 100% correct, btw) but your next sentence goes all Emily Litella.  Do you always so easily take someone’s words for things, esp considering as to the fact that the Journolister may not have read the article himself?
    And, it’s nice to know his friends were calling him ‘the Bearded Marxist’ in college.  My friends and I made nicknames for each other then also, as I am sure most guys did.  All of them may have exaggerated a particular feature but none of them were made up out of whole cloth.
    If his friends were calling him a Marxist at the end of his college years, he was way out in left field, probably in foul territory.

  6. sam says:

    Hey, I always thought a bearded Marxist was some commie dude going out with a famous lesbian to give her some cover. You mean there’s another kind?

  7. John425 says:

    Democrats don’t seem to mind hitting below the belt. Why shouldn’t we give ’em a few whacks?

  8. DC Loser says:

    My college nickname was “Macho Stud.”  Guess I have a future in Republican politics.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Considering the numerous loony things that O’Donnell has said, I guess it makes sense that some would desperately cling to this alleged proof that Coons is some kind of radical…gotta do something to break through that big lead in the polls…

  10. Wayne says:

    Any statement and record by O’Donnell must be examined in great detail regardless of when it was made. With Coons it is “nothing to see just move along”.

  11. ponce says:

    I think Karl Marx would be pretty happy with the way Europe and America have turned out.

  12. sam says:


    Why shouldn’t we give ‘em a few whacks?

    Ooo, better watchout with the reacharounds there, buddy. Christine has very strong opinions on that kind of stuff.

  13. Steve Plunk says:

    Speaking for the opposition is just another form of straw man building.  The refuge of those who can offer little of substance.  Our first two comedians showed us how it’s done.
    Communism, socialism, Marxism, or whatever are all part of a continuum of political beliefs that go to the extreme left and the extreme right.  There are exceptions but it simplifies things for the layman’s consumption.  Coons is probably far enough to the left that people could call him something of a socialist and not be too far off the mark.  His sympathies in college were just like many of us who endured the indoctrination attempts of the hippie professors playing it cool.  It’s an old adage ‘if you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re a conservative at 40 you have no brain’.  I’ve heard that was Churchill’s.  Winston, not Ward.
    It’s worthwhile for the opposing campaign to note this just as other campaigns have noted writings of conservative candidate’s college years.  It’s part of who a candidate is today.  More importantly it’s his recent voting record but with only serving as a county executive I expect he is an unknown on many national issues.  I guess you would have to go back to those college years to learn about him.
    In the mean time keep up the snark defense.  I’m sure the voters will appreciate it.

  14. wr says:

    Wayne — Coons has a long history in politics, and a record of accomplishments that can be judged. O’Donnel has done nothing except utter nutty comments. If she can come up with a single accomlishment, then she can be judged on that, too.

  15. JKB says:

    A course on cultural anthropology, noted Coons, had “undermined the accepted value of progress and the cultural superiority of the West,” while a class on the Vietnam War led him to “suspect…that the ideal of America as a ‘beacon of freedom and justice, providing hope for the world’ was not exactly based in reality.”

    No, if you read on in the Politico article article you see that he is just a typical, run-of-the-mill, “America sucks” Democrat.  And a fine product of the ‘elite’ university education mill.

    “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.”

    So what is it about a corrupt poor African (single party until 1992) state with a majority agriculture workforce that somehow turns people against America.  I don’t see it.  African countries are poor, corrupt rich Africans exploit their countrymen and keep them poor, America bad.  Where is the logic?

  16. says:

    “I don’t see it.  African countries are poor, corrupt rich Africans exploit their countrymen and keep them poor, America bad.  Where is the logic?”

    In the part of the quote that you conveniently skipped over:

    “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,”

  17. anjin-san says:

    >  typical, run-of-the-mill, “America sucks” Democrat.

    Funny, I have never met an “America sucks” Democrat, and I have been around Democratic politics quite a bit over the last decade.  I do know a lot of Democrats who understand that for all of its wonderful virtues, America has also made it’s share of mistakes, and these mistakes tend to be magnified because of our power and leading position in the world.
    Of course it is simpler to just slap a flag decal on your car and sing along with “Born in the U.S.A.” without actually understanding they lyrics, but there are people who seek to understand the responsibility that goes along with great power, instead of simply reveling in it…

  18. JKB says:

    …to understand the responsibility that goes along with great power…

    When you say responsibility do you mean like working to promote secure private property ownership, representative democracy, free enterprise and equality of opportunity?  Or do you mean, spread the wealth around for a one-time windfall?

    Or do you mean providing resources to handle disaster assistance.  Or maybe troops and military action to stop aggressors (Greece, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, in part in Afghanistan and Iraq).  Or do you mean funding the UN so they can siphon the money off to their private accounts while denigrating the US?

    Yes, the US has made mistakes, that makes us human.  I guess we could be Sweden, they don’t seem to make mistakes but then also, you don’t hear about them doing much in the wider world either.

    Here, maybe this guy isn’t a Democrat but he does advise the top Democrat.  His views are mostly anti-western world but I’d say that puts him in the America sucks column White House Science Czar Says He Would Use ‘Free Market’ to ‘De-Develop the United States’

  19. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    The county Coons is an administrator in is broke as in bankrupt.  What I am concerned about is Doug Mataconis seeming unending attacks on candidates who lean to the right.  Doug claims he is no progressive yet he defends the left and attacks the right.  The old addage when one walks like a duck, talks like a duck and is constantly seen in the company of ducks.  Your politics has been questioned by commenters before.  I guess asking intellectual honesty from a lawyer is like expecting wisdom from Anjin, Mantis and Sam with WR and Herb thrown in for good measure.  When you agree most of the time with the afore mentioned commenters it is a lie to say you have any conservative blood in you.  Doug I am suprised you do not write at the Daily Kos or Move on. org.  Quoting Weigel’s assessment is hot.  He is so far left he was a member of the discredited Journo list.  When the by line is Doug Mataconis the position will be left of center.  Period.  Nothing he has written here proves me wrong on this one.

  20. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anjin that you spent time among those who lean Democrat is a shocker.  You would not notice the difference between a Democrat and a communist (is there one?) since you are deep in the pack.  I think what you fail to see is America is in the process of rejecting that ideology.  If you conceal your self and observe, you will see the change you fear happening right before your very eyes.  One of your heros, Fidel Castro, recently denounced communism as a system they is failure prone.  But then your arguement is he did not do it right.  Right?

  21. An Interested Party says:

    “The refuge of those who can offer little of substance.”

    Kinda like your constant whining about the budget while offering no substantial remedies for fixing it…

    “Coons is probably far enough to the left that people could call him something of a socialist and not be too far off the mark.”

    Talk about strawman building… 

    “In the mean time keep up the snark defense.”

    Snark is a nice way to respond to baseless accusations…

  22. mantis says:

    Yes, the US has made mistakes…
    Aha!  Obviously just another America-hating liberal!  You are revealed.

  23. Wayne says:

    Re “Yes, the US has made mistakes”

    There is a difference between acknowledgement of mistakes and concentrating solely on those mistakes. One should also acknowledge the many many good things the U.S. has done.

    Those who have nothing but bad things to say about the U.S.A. are American haters. 


  24. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Mantis, Coons stated he spoke with a business man who was one of those who took advantage of his countrymen.  His remarks about why the poor remain poor is not the reason most Americans, rich or otherwise, believe some are poor and others are not.  Coons listened, no doubt to some idiot professor expound to his capitve audience his own beliefs about the evils of the free market system.  When he found that practiced in Kenya, he equated it with what the Prof had said coming to the conclusion he did.  I doubt seriously Coons wants to stand on his record as he would have been destroyed against Castle.  As long as the spotlight is on O’Donnell, Coons record of spending and raising taxes will remain unknown to the electorate.  If you think the GOP will allow this, you are the fool I take you to be.

  25. Davebo says:

    ” It’s an old adage ‘if you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re a conservative at 40 you have no brain’.”

    Actually I’d say if you’re a conservative in 2010 you might be “brain challenged” but however you want to call it.   It is, after all, your story.

  26. ponce says:

    ”  It is, after all, your story.”
    Is there room on Mt. Rushmore for Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck?

  27. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Davebo, I guess you must be 40 and a liberal which proves the adage.

  28. anjin-san says:

    >   Or do you mean funding the UN so they can siphon the money off to their private accounts while denigrating the US?

    Are you upset about the billions of dollars in cash that Bush sent to Iraq that simply vanished? Or about the infrastructure that he built there, in a nation that sits atop an ocean of oil, while America’s infrastructure crumbled?

    We can play point, counter point all night. I am as aware of America’s virtues as any “tea partier”.  Those virtues allow me to have a life that is better than almost anyone in the history of the world has enjoyed. I simply feel no need to strut around chanting U.S.A., U.S.A. A wise man once said, Pride plays best when played quietly.

  29. JKB says:

    I simply feel no need to strut around chanting U.S.A., U.S.A.

    I, personally, don’t know anyone who “needs” to strut around chanting U.S.A., U.S.A.  The people I know do it for the unmitigated pleasure, although they lean more toward the national anthem and “America, The Beautiful than the sports chant.  Or how wheeling around and snapping that salute for morning colors brightens the dreariest day.

    But your derision of tea partiers seems to indicated your objection to Americans, in their own capitol, in front of their own monuments, exhibiting public displays of affection for their country and Constitution.  Pride is best played quietly when in someone else’s home, in your own home, it is expected to be loud and proud.

  30. anjin-san says:

    > your objection to Americans, in their own capitol, in front of their own monuments, exhibiting public displays of affection for their country and Constitution.
    I have pictures of myself in front of all of our main national monuments. I went to a fair amount of effort to visit them & it was one of the high points in my life. Do you have any other nonsense statements to contribute?  Can you tell me the story of how the National Anthem came to be written without help from Google? A lot of the uber-patriots I run into can’t.

  31. anjin-san says:

    I note you ducked my question about how you feel regarding the billions upon billions of taxpayer cash that vanished in Iraq. I am also a little curious about military action we took to stop agression in Greece. And an explantion of how the Iraq war stopped agression would be interesting. The alleged weapons of this agression turned out not to exist as I remember it. (Gulf one was a different story, of course).

  32. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    So Anjin, let us speculate.  What do you think Saddam would be doing right about now, had he not been hanged by the neck until dead, that would be beneficial to Iraq, the region or the world in general?  What is it exactly about Saddam you like so damn much you think he should have been allowed to continue on the course he had taken?  Is there some number of UN resolutions he had to violate byond the 17 he did before something would be done or could he just go on and on until he killed a few million more people?  Maybe you prefer Uday and Qusay.  They were pleasant fellows.  You have a lot in common with Neville Chamberlain Anjin.  I just wonder how long it would have been before we would have had to contend with a much stronger Iraq had George Bush not acted.  Certainly not while this bum we have as President does the disservice of being President would anything have been done.  I look forward to you whining after November 2.

  33. wr says:

    Hey Zels — How many innocent Iraqi and American lives was Saddam worth? I mean, clearly he wasn’t worth the risk of your life, but is one Saddam worth several hundred thousand dead Iraqis?

  34. Eric Florack says:

    Bearded Marxist of Typical Democrat?

    Perhaps demonstration how these are any different, one from the other as a general rule, would be helpful.

  35. Eric Florack says:

    Allow me to illustrate my question with a video.
    Explain to us how what’s mentioned in this vid applies to one and not the other

  36. Sammy says:

    You see it in the white dominated liberal media and now see white democrats trying to identify with minorities, they might not want to give up their jobs to minorities or move into a minority neighborhood but they definitely want to show minorities that only white people are cable of speaking for them.