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Republicans on Immigration: Thank You, Tancredo!

A Lament for Tancredo

“There cannot be peace without justice”. So said the Raila Odinga, opposition leader in Kenya. His point has merit, of course, since a quarter million people have been displaced and over 300 killed in fighting that ensued after that nation’s disputed presidential election of December 27.

We will hear the inevitable comparisons to America’s electoral system, in that, no matter what the outcome, there will be a peaceful transition of power. The fiasco in 2000 proved that beyond a doubt.

However, that’s like being valedictorian of summer school.

By comparing ourselves to Kenya and the other third-world nations, it becomes far too easy to gloss over the problems that exist in our electoral process. From cowardly networks like FOX (that is trying to manipulate the outcome by excluding candidates from debates) to small states with immensely disproportionate power (Iowa and New Hampshire), the system is truly rigged to produce a “business as usual” result. The “Establishment” rules the day.

The two biggest casualties? Strong leaders who never sold their soul, and the American people. But while we may never again see a strong leader like Ronald Reagan assume the Presidency, true leaders can nonetheless still have a tremendous impact on the country.

Tancredo’s Impact

Ironically, the man who has had the greatest effect on the 2008 race is no longer running. Tom Tancredo, a Congressman from Colorado, ran hard for the Republican nomination, but ultimately suffered the fate of all those who buck the Establishment—unfair treatment at the hands of networks and party bosses. As a result, unable to compete in the money race, he was forced to drop out of the campaign.

Tancredo’s “mistake”? He was one of the most principled candidates in the race, and pulled no punches on his signature issue: illegal immigration’s devastating effect on America. He forcefully took on the Bush Administration and both political parties for their coddling and encouragement of illegals, and exposed the real reasons why each did so. For the Republicans, it’s payback to their friends (read: donors) in Big Business, who want cheap labor. The Democrats want the votes that the millions of illegals bring, as they are a natural constituency of the D’s.

Where does that leave the vast majority of Americans who agree that a wall should be built and amnesty is a sell-out of the country? Until Tancredo entered the race, the answer was “out of luck.”

All that changed despite the heavy-handed bias against “the Tank”, such as being asked only four questions in a ninety minute debate. Tancredo made the most of his time, and connected with the American people because he possessed the one thing that his colleagues didn’t: credibility. He was a man of conviction who never flip-flopped, and that, more than anything, made him a force to be reckoned with.

In explaining why illegal immigration was the gravest threat to America, Tancredo made people aware of the true scope of the problem. He scolded the business-as-usual crowd in Washington for doing nothing, and showed how illegals were directly responsible for the loss of American jobs, depressed wages, skyrocketing health and education costs, and the destruction of Western culture. He also pounded away at the huge national security threat posed by open borders, and ran a spectacular ad to that effect.

Tancredo may be out, but his impact continues. Under threat of a broadside from Tancredo, every Republican was forced to take a hard-line stand. They might not have completely agreed with the Tank, but the one thing they understood was that any more waffling on this issue would be a death knell. Ducking illegal immigration disappeared virtually overnight. Even Senator John McCain, the biggest proponent of amnesty, changed his tune when confronted by the millions supporting Tancredo’s common sense approach to the problem.

What happens from here? It’s anyone’s guess, but since the candidates are now on record, the eventual nominee would be wise to remember the real reason President Bush the Elder lost re-election in 1992. It’s not because he raised taxes, but much more basic. He went back on his word. After uttering one of the most famous political phrases of all time, “Read my lips, no new taxes”, he then raised them, and that was the ballgame. More than ever before, people are fed up with political two-stepping on the most pressing issues. Credibility counts.

Rumor has it Tancredo may be running for the Senate in Colorado. America could only be so lucky.

Chris Freind can be reached at

January 7, 2008 at 7:22 am
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