Tancredo Exploits the Politics of Fear

13 11 2007

It’s difficult to say what’s so galling about Congressman Tom Tancredo’s new xenophobic ad in Iowa; the fact that he produced it at all or that it took him this long. The ad features a ticking time bomb in the background coupled with images of terrorist destruction in an effort to conflate the threat of terrorism with the presence of undocumented immigrants. And of course, the ad ends with an explosion in a mall filled with innocent Americans because an “open border that lets in 20 million illegal aliens has its consequences.”

The fear of the IllegalimmigrantTerrorist strikes again.

Watch it.

Obviously, many people would like to dismiss Rep. Tancredo as a nativist wing nut, and with good reason. After all, Tancredo is the same person who upon hearing of Sen. Durbin’s recent press conference for the Dream Act, a bill that would offer financial aid to undocumented immigrants after fulfilling certain stringent requirements, recently said:

I call on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to detain any illegal aliens at this press conference… Just because these illegal aliens are being used for political gain doesn’t mean they get immunity from the law.

Of course, none of the students actually were undocumented.

And who could forget what Tancredo said about Miami:

Look at what has happened to Miami. It has become a Third World country … You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you’re in the United States of America. You would certainly say you’re in a Third World country.

Tancredo later outdid himself by recommending the U.S. bomb Islamic holy sites Mecca and Medina.

But it is also certainly that Tancredo’s influence has grown particularly since 2001. Prior to 9/11, his Immigration Reform Caucus, which he founded and served as chairman only has 10 lawmakers, now it has 107. Caucus membership includes such Republican luminaries as Rep. Pete Hoekstra and Rep. Chip Pickering, and GOP presidential hopefuls Rep. Ron Paul and Rep. Duncan Hunter. In February of 2007, Tancredo handed to chairmanship of the Caucus to Brian Bilbray a former lobbyist for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, anti-immigrant group with ties to hate groups.

And while Tancredo has not been that successful in getting his own bills passed, he has been effective at providing anti-immigrant organizations a prominent voice in and outside of Congress in the immigration debate. He also built effective coalitions in the House against President’s Bush plan for comprehensive immigration reform because it was not punitive enough.

But most of all Tancredo, probably more than any other present-day sitting Republican has pushed the immigration debate so far to the right that Michael Gerson, a former Bush speech writer said:

According to one poll, Latinos under age 30 now prefer a generic Democrat over a Republican for president by 42 points. A harsh, Tancredo-like image of Republicans has solidified in the mainstream Hispanic media. And all of this regression will be even more obvious in the next few months, because more than half of the Hispanic voters in America live in states that are part of the new lineup of early primaries.

So maybe this means that Tancredo will likely flame out in a short while as Republicans discover race baiting is an ineffective electoral strategy in a country where the white majority has struck to two thirds of the nation’s population.  Until then Tancredo will likely churn out more ads to fear monger against those with a different color skin and happen to come from a different part of the globe.

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