Arch-conservative rocker Ted Nugent distributed an email in mid-October to his Colorado supporters, urging support for Tom Tancredo. Nugent and Tancredo share a few characteristics - brash and fearless voices setting out absolutist positions, claims of being misunderstood and persecuted by enemies, pride in nativist patriotism. While they are loyal to respective passionate fan bases, Tancredo and Nugent share a disregard for expanding their core of loyal followers, something that blunts the political effectiveness of both.
Tancredo's willingness to run under the auspices of the American Constitution Party in 2010 underscores his underlying weakness: by hewing to his core belief system, he limits his effectiveness and his ability to win elections. Certainly, Tancredo is a maverick and iconoclast. He takes positions that are contrary to both the Republican establishment and the tea party insurgency, such as his support for Amendment 64. But he shares the tea party's tactical approach of taking intransigence to the wall to cement his beliefs.
His extreme anti-immigration opinion shows the problem in this, as does his adamant stance against gay marriage. Not only does his rejection of immigration-reform attempts doom his efforts to appeal to Latinos and African-Americans, it also undercuts the expansion of his base among younger Caucasians, too - something equally true for his neglect of those supporting gay rights. Tancredo in this sense is very much like the tea party - older traditionalist constituents may show stronger support as he remains unbending, but younger, middle-of-the-road types will abandon him in droves.
It's clear that a clash within the Republican Party is inevitable, and that conservatives have many reasons for chiding Washington insiders for inconsistencies. But conservatives also are not looking at the raw numbers of changing voter demographics. Extreme cultural and fiscal positions may win primaries but can rarely win elections. Unless Tancredo is willing to seriously modify many positions to appeal to independents, minorities, and younger voters, he will be like Nugent, a lone wolf howling at the moon. A few may appreciate that honest approach, but most will reject the extreme nature of Tancredo's message.
Loring Wirbel is a technology analyst and writer who serves as local ACLU chair, board member for Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission, and president of Poetry West, though these opinions are his own.
Conservatives lately have rallied around Value Voters, similar to the old Moral Majority. In both cases, the organization's name reflects a belief that members are the only ones holding values or morals. That very assumption undercuts the effectiveness of those organizations.
Tom Tancredo's supporters rail against alleged shortcomings of John Hickenlooper. That approach doesn't indicate improvements a challenger might make. Tancredo avoids that subject because his views are too contrary to most Coloradans' views to make him an effective candidate, capable of appealing to some people in both parties, and many independents as well.