Tom Tancredo's latest crusade
Especially now that Bill Owens has redeemed himself, Colorado's most embarrassing politician is unquestionably Tom Tancredo. Tancredo's schtick is stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment, and he's been doing it long enough now that he can plausibly claim to be the leader of the anti-immigrant loony fringe in Washington. His latest project? End birthright citizenship in the United States.
Prof. Bainbridge, as usual, has some worthwhile links.
Tancredo may be a demogogue, but his schtick works because he's one of the only politicians (now that Pat Buchanan has receded from the limelight) that speak to the economic worries of the working class. Unfortunately, the silence of the Democratic party on these issues leaves the field wide open for Tancredo and his ilk: right-wing xenophobes.
I'm reminded of a passage from Richard Rorty's book Achieving Our Country:
Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book The Endangered American Dream is that members of labor unions, and uonroganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers -- themselves desperately afraid of being downsized -- are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that something has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for -- someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.
[Here follows a reference to Hitler, racism, and wars of adventure.]
People will wonder whey there was so little resistance to [the strongman's] evitable rise. Where, they will ask, was the American Left? Why was it only rightists like Buchanan who spoke to the workers about the consequences of globalization?
Although this reflexive fear of fascism may mark Rorty as among the loony left fringe, his (and Luttwak's) point is still a good one. People like Tancredo's anti-immigrant message because they're afraid of the bottom falling out. Their fears are rational. The Democrats, infatuated with the pro-free-trade policies of the Clinton administration, will do only marginally better than the pro-corporate right to blunt the impact of globalization on the working class.
Tancredo may be embarrassing, but he's riding a powerful political wave. It's too bad the Democrats don't seem very worried.