It’s hard for “progressive” Democrats to avoid being likened to communists when a leading Democratic U.S. senator openly consorts with, yes, communists.

And this wasn’t just an encounter of happenstance. This was a preplanned, open, full embrace of a Communist Party event, accompanied by fulsome praise for the Communist Party hosts. What it means is that even if U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut isn’t himself a communist, he is indisputably a fellow traveler.

Yet Blumenthal surely will continue to enjoy all the emoluments of power and all the goodwill of his Democratic colleagues despite, or maybe because of, his enthusiastic participation in a Connecticut Communist Party awards ceremony. The Democratic congressional leadership certainly won’t denounce Blumenthal, much less strip him of committee posts, because to them, communism isn’t a mortal threat but a noble ideal that just hasn’t been well-implemented.

Specifically, here’s what Blumenthal did. He spoke at the annual ceremony of the Connecticut People’s World Committee, and he used Senate stationery to provide approving recognition to winners of the committee’s “Amistad Award.” The group is openly and proudly an affiliate of the Communist Party USA.

There could have been no confusion about the nature of the organization. At the event, not long before Blumenthal spoke, one of the two event hosts explained that “this year, the awards are held on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of the Communist Party USA,” then went on for some time praising the party’s work since 1919 and “invit[ing]” listeners to join the Communist Party (by name) and create “a new socialist system.”

In introducing Blumenthal, the other host specifically said she was “honoring how important the Communist Party is … not just in Connecticut, but across the whole world.” Precisely one minute after she said those words, Blumenthal took the podium, saying he was “really excited and honored to be with you.” He gave a mild disclaimer that one need not “agree with … every organization” in order to honor the three award winners, all of whom had pushed for priorities of the labor movement.

Blumenthal didn’t stress the disclaimer, and it would not have absolved him anyway, just as no disclaimer could absolve a public official from knowingly and eagerly speaking at an event openly sponsored by white nationalists or neo-Nazis. Communism is inherently an evil ideal, entirely counter to human nature, and responsible for some 100 million deaths in the past century, dwarfing even Nazism (numerically) as the deadliest ideology of all time.

Blumenthal’s “excited” participation in a Communist Party event is morally monstrous. If his Democratic colleagues don’t denounce it and him, and if they don’t strip him of at least some of his power, they will be morally complicit in his conjugation with communism. It will make them not merely Blumenthal’s colleagues, but effectively his comrades as well.