If, seven years ago, Peter Brimelow had told me that one day I would be fielding irate letters from readers berating me for not rallying the troops around the presidential effort of Senator John McCain (!), I would never have believed him.
You can't imagine—or maybe you can—how maddening it is to pore through a steady stream of correspondence telling me that, despite his obvious immigration-related shortcomings (and plenty of other deficiencies), McCain is our man.
Yet, inconceivable as this McCain mania was just a few short months ago, that's where we are today.
To all who have written me with the "Let's Go McCain!" message, please be clear on one thing: as a practical matter, it isn't possible to be worse on immigration than McCain. He co-authored an amnesty plan with the most Open Borders fanatic in the U.S. Senate: Teddy Kennedy.
Translation: no Democrat can be "worse"—they can only be "as bad".
As painful as the rah-rah letters are, the real frustration sets in when other readers bemoan our horrible presidential choices vis-a-vis the National Question.
That's a good question. Too bad it has a painful answer.
Too many excused their shameful betrayal by identifying Hunter and Tancredo from the start as losers—"They can't win."
From the outset, we realized that Tancredo was a long shot. Since he became a prominent Patriotic Immigration Reform spokesman several years ago, everyone from President George W. Bush to his hometown Denver Post belittled him at every turn.
Sadly—and disgracefully—Tancredo didn't make it.
And why didn't Hunter, even without Tancredo's national following, do better?
From Hunter's biography:
Despite Hunter's strong resume that emphasizes his commitment to immigration reform, national security and patriotism, voters steadfastly refused to support him. Accordingly, Hunter dropped out of the race after several poor showings.
In her op-ed, New York Times' editorial page editor Gail Collins speculates facetiously that Hunter failed because he "really didn't seem to be trying." Collins added sarcastically that she "went to more states during the early campaigning period than he did." [Beyond the Fringe, By Gail Collins, New York Times, January 27, 2008]
But the momentum that should have been behind Hunter pushing him forward to "more states" never materialized.
You can parse Hunter's results anyway you want to. But it's impossible to escape the raw fact that in the end voters (many of whom are now grousing and groaning) preferred Establishment candidates.
The obvious result of Hunter and Tancredo's failed campaigns is that we can't vote for them in the general election in November.
But there are other unpleasant consequences, too.
Both have announced their retirement from Congress. The best that we can hope for—no guarantees— is that equally passionate immigration reformers will replace them. Hunter's son, Duncan D. Hunter, is one of four Republicans running to succeed his father. [Relatives, Ex-law Makers Vie for Legislative, Congressional Seats, By Steve Lawrence, Associated Press, February 23, 2008]
And, because of the magnitude of their defeats, we now have to endure the slings and arrows of the MainStream Media and its non-stop pontificating about how immigration reform doesn't resonate at the polls.
See, for one example, Collins' editorial cited above with its reference to the "fringe".
Or read former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda's gloating conversation with a Miami Herald reporter wherein he called Hunter and Tancredo "two crazies…who went nowhere…" in the presidential primaries. [A Mexican view of U.S. immigration debate, By Casey Woods, Miami Herald, February 17, 2008]
Or for the best (worst?) example, try on for size the Washington Post's editorial, the latest in its ongoing series of attacks on patriotic immigration reform, titled "Nativism's Electoral Flop" with its rub-salt-into-the-wounds subtitle, "Bashers of Illegal Immigration Are Failing at the Polls." [Nativism's Electoral Flop, Washington Post, February 14, 2008]
Excerpts from the editorial about the candidates who promoted immigration reform even if insincerely:
In contrast, about McCain the Post cannot be effusive enough:
Finally, beating up on us (again!), the Post has this closing paragraph:
"No doubt, the unrealistic and irresponsible advocates of harassment, roundups and deportations will show up at the polls this November, if only to cast ballots against candidates who would embrace workable reforms. The hope here is that their electoral clout will be outweighed by a backlash among fired-up and fed-up Latino voters."
Of course, this is deeply dishonest. All the Republican candidates, including McCain, ran away from amnesty. All of them emphasized their determination to make the border secure. That's a big change. And the presence of Tancredo and Hunter in the race had a lot to do with it.
Moreover, Huckabee and Paul, both still in the race, both signed NumbersUSA's No Amnesty pledge. Maybe the GOP will be the McCain coronation that the Washington Post would like—or maybe there will be Dole-type doubts and despair, and the immigration issue will flare up again in a good floor fight.
But the core question is whether the Post's central thesis is correct. Have we—"the unrealistic and irresponsible advocates" of immigration reform—failed at the polls?
Based on the evidence of Hunter and Tancredo's 1 and 2 percent showings in the primaries and caucuses, the sad but true answer is "Yes".