After his bid for the presidency, Tom Tancredo retired from Congress. While he is still championing the cause of patriotic immigration reform in private life, and may return to public office, the void he leaves in Washington remains empty. Being a member of Congress does not just give you a vote on legislation; it also provides a huge megaphone. Tancredo made his mark by endlessly using his position to speak out on the importance of securing our borders, enforcing our laws, and cutting down on mass immigration.
Peter Brimelow has asked me who I think is best primed to take his place.
Had Hazleton, PA Mayor Lou Barletta been elected to Congress, he would have been perfectly placed to pick up where Tancredo left off. Standing up for his little town of 20,000 people made him a hero for millions of Americans. But unfortunately he got edged out by incumbent Paul Kanjorski (D-PA.)
Still, Mayor Barletta will most likely run again in 2010. With the anti-Republican mood of the electorate greatly diminished, I'd happily wager that he'll win.
But what about the 435 Congressmen currently in office?
Tancredo's successor for the Colorado's 6th District is Rep. Michael Coffman. Coffman was one of just 18 Republicans to vote for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Tancredo's successor at the Immigration Reform Caucus is Brian Bilbray. Rep. Bilbray served as a lobbyist as FAIR and understands the immigration issue. Since reassuming office in 2006, his voting record is perfect.
But unlike Tancredo, Bilbray seems to see his role as a Congressman as mainly building coalitions around a few pieces of legislation, such as the SAVE Act, (requiring mandatory E-Verify ) rather than to reach the masses.
In a profile in the Politico, Rep. Bilbray's ranking staffer in the Immigration Reform Caucus Emily Sanders explained the difference in style between him and Tancredo;
"'I love Tom Tancredo,' Sanders says. 'I've had Scotch with the guy, and I think if people got to know him at that level, everybody would love him. He is such a nice man, and he's so wicked smart. But Tom Tancredo is John the Baptist. He was saying things that were not popular and making people aware of things they didn't want to look at. And the White House totally didn't like him, and a lot of other people just thought he was a crazy yahoo.'
"Sanders, following Bilbray's instincts, endeavored to take a kinder, gentler, more moderate approach and reach out to more members…
"Sanders points to the discharge petition she and Bilbray wrote in support of the Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act, which penalizes employers who hire illegal immigrants.
"'If Tom Tancredo had come to that leadership and said, 'Hey, I've got this discharge petition on the SAVE Act,'' she says, 'I don't think they would have taken it seriously. They would have thought, 'Oh, it's those immigration people again. Go away.''" [Politico Pro: Emily Sanders, by Daniel Libit, Politico, August 12, 2008. Links added.]
Well, up to a point. The cause of patriotic immigration reform needs smooth operators who take "kinder, gentler approach" on its side, like Brian Bilbray. But they need to be complemented with people who are willing to be chastised by the media, the Left, and even fellow Republicans.
Here's an example why: As the debate over healthcare heated up this summer, Democrats repeatedly introduced phony measures that pretended to bar illegal aliens from healthcare, but provided no verification or enforcement to make it work. Rep. Nathan Deal (R-NC) introduced an Amendment to close this loophole, but the Democrats—including, note carefully, Immigration Reform Caucus member Bart Gordon (D-TN)—voted against it.
Conservative congressmen wrote press releases and open letters on this and other loopholes that would allow illegal aliens to receive Obamacare. But they were ignored and dismissed by the Main Stream Media.
Then when Barack Obama repeated the same falsehoods about illegal aliens before a joint session of Congress on Health Care, Rep Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled "You lie!" (Tom Tancredo says that some people have told him that, when they first heard it, they assumed it was him!)
Congress censured Wilson. The Left called him a racist, extremist etc. etc. But he forced America to take notice of one of the contradictions between mass immigration and Obamacare, and Americans learned the truth about the bill.
With Obama's lies exposed, he issued guidelines to close the loopholes. Where dozens of press releases and petitions failed, two words succeeded.
So is Joe Wilson our man? Though weak on temporary workers, Wilson amassed an otherwise stellar record on immigration. But I wouldn't hold my breath for him.
Not knowing who made the comment, Rep. Wilson's wife called up and asked "Joe, who's the nut that hollered out, 'You Lie!'?'"
This is indicative of Rep Wilson. He is known as a very mild mannered man. Having just seen the Democrats in his committee vote against the amendments, he just let his frustration get the best of him. His truth-telling Tourette's Syndrome is out of character, and probably temporary.
Perhaps the death threats from the Left and the million dollars Wilson raised from patriotic Americans in the wake of the incident will change his temperament. But barring that, he is not the next Tancredo.
Many people fed up with the Bush/McCain betrayal on immigration are hopeful that Democrats could lead the charge. They look to Heath Shuler (D-NC.) Shuler introduced the SAVE Act and attracted some Democratic support for the bill (though most would not sign the discharge petition.) He's also not afraid to be at odds with his party. He was one of a handful of Democrats to vote against the Stimulus and the Hate Crimes bill.
But Shuler is not completely dependable. For example, supports birthright citizenship and he co-sponsored the apology for slavery and segregation. Moreover, because the Democratic leadership is giving him and other so-called Blue Dog Democrats some encouragement, Shuler is careful not to step on their toes, and always defends House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Tancredo, in contrast, never hesitated to call out the Mike Pences and John McCains of the party—nor, of course, George W. Bush.
Two already established leaders on the issue are Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA.) Rep. Smith actually first encouraged Tancredo to champion the immigration issue when he came into Congress. But as the ranking Republican in the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Smith cannot afford to cause the same stir that Tancredo did.
Rep. King has a lot of guts. He introduced an Amendment to the Hate Crimes Bill to call murders by illegal aliens hate crimes. He was the most vocal supporter of Joe Wilson, for both for his outburst against Obama and support of the Confederate Flag. King even looks like Tancredo and they are frequently confused with each other. If no one new emerges, King is my guess as the next leader of the cause.
But there is some fresh blood with great potential.
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) successfully primaried La Raza Republican Chris Cannon last year. The fact that he went after an incumbent shows that he's not afraid to take on the Republican Establishment. The fact that he won the election by supporting patriotic immigration reform makes him perfect to be the next leader. Chaffetz already co-sponsored bills to end chain migration and birthright citizenship. He also introduced a House version of the Vitter-Bennett census amendment, attempting to make the census distinguish between citizens and illegal aliens, that I discussed in my last column.
Freshman Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) already established himself as one of the premier advocates for patriotic immigration reform in California. He campaigned tirelessly for Proposition 187 and continued to speak out against the Gray Davis sellout in the courts. McClintock also co-sponsored a bill to end birthright citizenship.
But if I had to choose just one new leader with the strongest potential to be the next Tancredo, it would Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) who replaced the heroic Charlie Norwood after his death in 2007.
Rep Broun is not afraid to make controversial statements. After Obama made proposed a Civilian National Security Force, he said
"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist." [Georgia congressman warns of Obama dictatorship, by Ben Evans, Associated Press, November 10, 2008]
Broun also does not shy away from showmanship. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, he began a town hall meeting this August by walking
"…into a North Georgia Technical College auditorium Tuesday evening to a standing ovation, holding three thick white binders. 'Folks, this is Obamacare," he said, holding the binders over his head. Let me start this by telling you what I think of this bill and Obamacare,' he said, and slammed the binders on the ground."
Broun went on to say "This is a stinking, rotten fish, and they don't want you to smell it, and they want to shove it down your throat and make you eat it before you smell how rotten and stinky it is," and accused Obama and Pelosi of being part of a "socialist elite." [Obamacare a 'rotten fish,' says Broun at town hall, by Blake Aued, Athens Banner-Herald, August 12, 2009]
Just recently, Broun joined Reps. Sue Myrick (R-NC) and John Shadegg (R-AZ) in calling for an investigation of The Council on American Islamic Relations for wanting to plant interns on Capitol Hill. According to Broun, "If an organization that is connected to or supports terrorists is running influence operations or planting spies in key national security-related congressional offices, I think this needs to be made known." [House GOP seeks Muslim 'spy' probe, by Kara Rowland, Washington Times, October 15, 2009]
VDARE.COM readers may be shocked to hear this, but I personally disagreed with some of Tancredo's most controversial statements proposing we bomb Mecca to retaliate from a future terrorist attack.
But the important thing is that Rep. Broun, like Tancredo, believes in the cause and is not a coward.
None of his non-gaffes relate to immigration, but I think we can count on Broun to start speaking loudly about it with a little encouragement. He has the second highest career rating of all 435 members on immigration from Numbers USA.
What about the Senate? Jeff Sessions remains the most steadfast promoter of patriotic immigration reform, but like Lamar Smith, his position in the Judiciary Committee keeps him from causing a huge stir.
David Vitter, who led the fight against amnesty in 2007, could emerge as a leader. He's also led the fight against ACORN, and introduced the Vitter-Bennett Census Amendment.
Although not related to immigration, his refusal to fight with other Louisiana politicians over who hates anti-miscegenation Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell the most demonstrates that he has a bit of a backbone.
There's one place where Reps. Chaffetz, Broun, or McClintock or Senator Vitter could establish themselves as the New Tancredo: by proposing a moratorium on legal immigration.
Despite massive unemployment, no one in Congress is even talking about freezing legal immigration. If someone were to propose it, I predict he would get at least 50 co-sponsors and the American people would see him as a leader on the issue.
This is a golden opportunity. Let's hope one of them takes it.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.