He Cant Win—How Immigration Reform Patriots Betrayed Duncan Hunter (And Tom Tancredo)
By Joe Guzzardi
February 29, 2008
Had I known in 2001 what I know today, I might never have signed on to write columns for VDARE.COM.
If, seven years ago, Peter Brimelow had told me that one day I would be fielding irate letters from readers berating me for not rallying the troops around the presidential effort of Senator John McCain (!), I would never have believed him.
You cant imagine or maybe you can how maddening it is to pore through a steady stream of correspondence telling me that, despite his obvious immigration-related shortcomings (and plenty of other deficiencies), McCain is our man.
Yet, inconceivable as this McCain mania was just a few short months ago, thats where we are today.
To all who have written me with the Lets Go McCain! message, please be clear on one thing: as a practical matter, it isnt possible to be worse on immigration than McCain. He co-authored an amnesty plan with the most Open Borders fanatic in the U.S. Senate: Teddy Kennedy.
Translation: no Democrat can be worsethey can only be as bad.
As painful as the rah-rah letters are, the real frustration sets in when other readers bemoan our horrible presidential choices vis-a-vis the National Question.
How can it be, hand wringers ask me, that McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all favor amnesty and open borders? Where are our candidates?
Thats a good question. Too bad it has a painful answer.
Our two best candidates Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo are now on the sidelines because not enough patriotic immigration reformers supported them.
Too many excused their shameful betrayal by identifying Hunter and Tancredo from the start as losers:They cant win.
Listen and watch here on YouTube to Sean Hannity asking Ann Coulter if she really thinks Hunter can win And note Coulters response: if Hannity talked Hunter up, maybe he would.
From the outset, we realized that Tancredo was a long shot. Since he became a prominent Patriotic Immigration Reform spokesman several years ago, everyone from President George W. Bush to his hometown Denver Post belittled him at every turn.
Nevertheless, Tancredo had third place as his goal achievable given his national standing as the most visible and admired immigration reform crusader.
Sadly and disgracefully Tancredo didnt make it.
And why didnt Hunter, even without Tancredos national following, do better?
From Hunters biography:
bullet 14 terms in the House of Representative representing portions of San Diego county ,an illegal alien hot-spot, and promoting immigration reform
bullet Author of the House bill that mandates 854 miles of double border fence between California and Mexico (Hunter on YouTube discussing the fence here.)
bullet Senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee
bullet Vietnam veteran serving with the Airborne and Army Rangers
Despite Hunters strong resume that emphasizes his commitment to immigration reform, national security and patriotism, voters steadfastly refused to support him. Accordingly, Hunter dropped out of the race after several poor showings.
In her op-ed, New York Times editorial page editor Gail Collins speculates facetiously that Hunter failed because he really didnt seem to be trying. Collins added sarcastically that she went to more states during the early campaigning period than he did. [Beyond the Fringe, By Gail Collins, New York Times, January 27, 2008]
But the momentum that should have been behind Hunter pushing him forward to more states never materialized.
You can parse Hunters results anyway you want to. But its impossible to escape the raw fact that in the end voters (many of whom are now grousing and groaning) preferred Establishment candidates.
The obvious result of Hunter and Tancredos failed campaigns is that we cant vote for them in the general election in November.
But there are other unpleasant consequences, too.
Both have announced their retirement from Congress. The best that we can hope forno guarantees is that equally passionate immigration reformers will replace them. Hunters son, Duncan D. Hunter, is one of four Republicans running to succeed his father. [Relatives, Ex-law Makers Vie for Legislative, Congressional Seats, By Steve Lawrence, Associated Press, February 23, 2008]
And, because of the magnitude of their defeats, we now have to endure the slings and arrows of the Main Stream Media and its non-stop pontificating about how immigration reform doesnt resonate at the polls.
See, for one example, Collins editorial cited above with its reference to the fringe.
Or read former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaedas gloating conversation with a Miami Herald reporter wherein he called Hunter and Tancredo two crazieswho went nowhere in the presidential primaries. [A Mexican view of U.S. immigration debate, By Casey Woods, Miami Herald, February 17, 2008]
(Read my response to Castaeda in my interview with Univision journalist Bill McIntosh here.)
Or for the best (worst?) example, try on for size the Washington Posts editorial, the latest in its ongoing series of attacks on patriotic immigration reform, titled Nativisms Electoral Flop with its rub-salt-into-the-wounds subtitle, Bashers of Illegal Immigration Are Failing at the Polls. [Nativisms Electoral Flop, Washington Post, February 14, 2008]
Excerpts from the editorial about the candidates who promoted immigration reform even if insincerely:
bullet Tancredo: styled himself as the nativists' champion, dropped out of the presidential contest after never registering more than a blip.
bullet Mitt Romney: took his turn at strident rhetoric against undocumented immigrants, to no discernible effect.
bullet Rudy Giuliani: all but repudiated what had been his constructive, tolerant record on immigration as mayor of New York and then got shellacked in Hispanic-heavy Florida.
bullet Mike Huckabee: took the most rabid line of all, promising to drive all 12 million illegal immigrants from the country in four months; he seems destined to be an also-ran, barring unforeseen miracles.
In contrast, about McCain the Post cannot be effusive enough:
bullet He now talks about the primacy of border security but continues to express compassion for illegal immigrants, who, he notes, are God's children.
Finally, beating up on us (again!), the Post has this closing paragraph:
No doubt, the unrealistic and irresponsible advocates of harassment, roundups and deportations will show up at the polls this November, if only to cast ballots against candidates who would embrace workable reforms. The hope here is that their electoral clout will be outweighed by a backlash among fired-up and fed-up Latino voters.
Of course, this is deeply dishonest. All the Republican candidates, including McCain, ran away from amnesty. All of them emphasized their determination to make the border secure. Thats a big change. And the presence of Tancredo and Hunter in the race had a lot to do with it.
Moreover, Huckabee and Paul, both still in the race, both signed Numbers USAs No Amnesty pledge. Maybe the GOP will be the McCain coronation that the Washington Post would like or maybe there will be Dole-type doubts and despair, and the immigration issue will flare up again in a good floor fight.
But the core question is whether the Posts central thesis is correct. Have wethe unrealistic and irresponsible advocates of immigration reformfailed at the polls?
Based on the evidence of Hunter and Tancredos 1 and 2 percent showings in the primaries and caucuses, the sad but true answer is Yes.
Apologists offer a million excuses for Hunter and Tancredos dismal showing: no GOP machine support, no money, no positive mainstream media coverage. And, of course, issue theft by the other candidates.
All those reasons are valid up to a point. But they all could have been overcome with votes.
The failure is not in Hunter and Tancredos campaign but our abandonment of them.
Maybe 2008 is the year we will finally learn our lesson:
bulletUntil patriotic immigration reformers learn to vote on their issue, and on no other issue, regardless of party, regardless of whether their candidate can win, they will not get the attention of the political elite.
Think of the success of the Right To Life Movement (with which I personally disagree) in getting the GOP to toe their line. Their issue polls far worse than patriotic immigration reform. But they are prepared to go the mat for it.
Next week, reviewing in greater detail than ever before, my own 2003 California gubernatorial effort referred to from start to finish as the he cant win campaign Ill explain how todays poll failures can with a collective effort become tomorrows successes.
I wouldnt have won. But I easily could have made plenty of noise and sent an unmistakable message just as Patriotic Immigration Reform movement could and should have done with Hunter and Tancredos brave candidacies.
Joe Guzzardi [e-mail him] is the Editor of VDARE.COM Letters to the Editor. In addition, he is an English teacher at the Lodi Adult School and has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.