So, I've held off making political posts here, in case they'd offend anyone who just wanted to read the latest Tolkien bits I was working on. But there's so much going on that now seems a good time to start commenting on it. Those not interested in the sad state of US politics are advised to skip this one.
We recently got a gift subscription to TIME, and since the issues had been piling up I've been making a concerted effort to read through them so they can move on to recycling. Some things stand out: for example, the magazine is much more conservative than I remember it, certainly more conservative than NEWSWEEK is these days. Given its history, this should not be surprising, but it's just another example of how easy it is to buy into the myth of the 'liberal media'.
Of particular interest, in a horrifying train-wreck sort of way, is the brief piece that appeared a few weeks back on Congressman Tancredo, one of the minor candidates running for the Republican nomination this year. Until recently, I've know very little about him, and was happy to keep it that way, but as he'd no doubt hoped taking part in the debates has raised his profile and given him a platform for spreading his ideas.* Here are a few gems from his Q&A in TIME:
--he doesn't think climate change is caused by human activity, but claims that opposing immigration is environmentally sound ("if a person moves here from another country, they automatically become bigger polluters")
--he thinks we shouldn't have a national identity card, because that smacks of the Mark of the Beast (yes, I'm paraphrasing, but he genuinely did bring up the Book of Revelations imagery). However, every citizen should have "a Social Security card that can't be fraudulently reproduced" (comment: this is like having money that can't be counterfeited or a web immune to hackers or a missile-defense system that can't be sabotaged: pious nonsense that can't be made to happen in the real world)
--"we should have a moratorium on all immigration--legal or not--for at least three years . . . an immigration time-out . . . in order to assimilate the people who have come here already" (not even the Alien & Sedition Acts, which have been notorious for over two hundred years, went this far. welcome to a new low in the history of our country)
--his solution to immigrants picking crops? Genetically engineer food so machines can harvest them instead. He specifically praises tomatoes with "tougher skins [that] could be picked by machine" as a move in the right direction. This one is a double whammy: he both advocates replacing people with machines ("a reduction in low-wage workers") to eliminate jobs AND would rather see our food tampered with than allow immigrants to work agricultural jobs.
--finally, though it doesn't come up in this piece, it's good to keep in mind that he's one of the three Republican candidates who went on record as not believing in Evolution.
Conclusion: it's just barely possible he might ride an anti-immigrant wave into the vice presidency, just as Nixon managed to ride McCarthyism into a spot alongside Eisenhower on the 1952 ticket, but I doubt it. Tancredo's breed of xenophobia would have been mainstream Republicanism in the 1920s, but today it's an ugly throw-back, like David Dukes' brief political career in the 1980s. Well before the election he'll have slunk back into the hole he crawled out of. Ultimately he'll probably wind up being a right-wing pundit, a la Buchanan (a fellow anti-immigrant isolationist).
*I maintain that there are three types of presidential candidates: (1) Those who are running because they think they might actually win, like Edwards, Obama, Clinton, McCain, Romney, & Guiliani; (2) those who are running for vice president though they won't admit it, like Huckabee and Tommy Thompson and Dodds; and (3) those like Tancredo who are running as 'issue' candidates, with no hope of winning the nomination but hoping to raise their profile so they'll become sought-after spokesmen for their pet causes, which worked well in the past for Kucinich and Sharpton and, God knows, Jesse Jackson.