(Page 2 of 3)
“He’s pretty good,” Bill Lester said, nodding at the screen. “No Tancredo, but…”
The Lesters are your textbook all-American family. Comfortably middle-class, they own a beautiful midsized home on a picturesque cul-de-sac. Bill and Claire rise for work — he in the medical industry, she in the tech field — before six a.m. and often as not return after six p.m. When one son isn’t playing hockey, he’s playing lacrosse. When the other son isn’t wrestling, he’s playing football. They have an extraordinarily sweet dog that did her best to maintain a stiff upper lip while her home was overrun by strangers.
Busy with life, the Lesters have never volunteered for a candidate, much less invited one into their house before tonight.
“I really, truly believe the country is at a crossroads,” Bill Lester explained earnestly. “I’m worried about a political correctness in this country that denies us any logical discussion of our problems. So when this guy comes along and talks about the real issues and says what he believes and gets beat up for doing it, you bet I’m going to stand up and do whatever I can for him.”
Tancredo has an unusually unguarded, easygoing rapport with his supporters, even for a lower tier presidential candidate. He seems honestly touched by the reception and, sometimes, the adulation he receives. It’s a symbiotic relationship, with Tancredo and supporters behaving like members of a super-politicized couple who finish each other’s sentences.
“This clash of civilizations is a battle that’s been going on for hundreds of years…” Tancredo said at one point.
“1400 years…” someone in the crowd added.
“Right.” And do you know what day the hordes were stopped at the Gates of Vienna, Tancredo asked.
“September 11,” a voice from the other side of the room answered, as scattered gasps rose up. And back and forth it went for more than an hour, an impressive feat in the context of modern politics, but also a bit disturbing at times given how dark Tancredo’s take on the state of the nation/world is. (No one, for example, took issue with the proposal that we hit our Saudi Arabian ally with nuclear weapons to retaliate for a terrorist attack that didn’t originate there.)
Such close communion with everyday people is not out of character, according to Tancredo staffers. “I’ve worked with a lot of candidates all over the country,” one of the candidate’s advance men said. “Tom’s different. He’s a real guy. He carries his own luggage. He flies alone, and just calls when he gets in for a ride. There are some state legislators who are more demanding. He’s down-to-earth in a unique way for politics.”
As Bill Lester watched Tancredo’s van pull away that evening, he was in a wistfully similar frame of mind. “He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind seeing move into your neighborhood,” he said. “What other presidential candidate can you say that about?”
SUPPORTERS VEHEMENTLY REJECT any suggestion Tancredo is floundering because he is perceived to be a single-issue candidate and, indeed, the candidate can point to “A” grades from the American Conservative Union, the NRA, National Taxpayers Union, Family Research Council and others. Yet in conversation supporters invariably cite illegal immigration as the wellspring of their affection for Tancredo, rattling off a dizzying array of fears: Illegal immigrants infecting America with smallpox. Illegal immigrant terrorists. Illegal immigrants bankrupting social services. More than one attendee fumed over the local cable company’s recent decision to drop a country music station and keep three Spanish language channels. “We’re losing the music of our country and keeping stuff we can’t even understand,” one man complained to Tancredo.
Some of the conviction was visceral, personal. “I came here legally,” Diane Lothrop, an emigre from England who, with her husband Chuck, also recently hosted a Tancredo house party, said. “I waited in line for years to become citizen. And if I can do it the right way, so can everyone else.” Of course, the average Brit and the average Mexican day laborer have much different needs and resources. This isn’t a crowd that would take kindly to, say, Cato Institute studies or Wall Street Journal editorials, though, and many place the blame for Tancredo’s lack of buzz not on policy, but mass media.
“If Tancredo loses I’m not going to die or anything,” Chuck Lothrop said. “But I’m also not going to just give up on his candidacy because the media tells me he can’t win.”
STILL, WHILE NONE OF HIS supporters are quite willing to rule out a miracle, at this point both they and their candidate seem to recognize it is unlikely Tom Tancredo will be working out of the West Wing come 2009. “I know, if nothing else,” Tancredo said at the beginning of his talk, “our camp has moved this issue and forced my opponents to deal with it.” At moments, Tancredo seemed just another observer of the race. “Boy, you can tell the caucus is getting real close,” he said at one point. “They’re really going after each other.” Alas, the Stop Amnesty/Vote Tancredo bumper stickers already seem antiquated. When Tancredo says things like, “I would be a happy camper if this whole process was shrunk down to six weeks,” you don’t get the impression he’s expecting a late surge.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?