Jaws dropped across Colorado Friday after a national poll showed former Congressman Tom Tancredo, a third party candidate for governor, polling within just four points of frontrunner Denver Major John Hickenlooper.
Considered a long shot since his campaign announcement this summer, Tancredo and his last minute surge begs a question not yet pondered by most strategists or voters: what would his victory mean for Colorado? Strange but true, it might just mean a handful of policy goodies long championed by progressive liberals.
No doubt a polarizing public figure, Tancredo's passionate one-man campaign for immigration reform played center stage in his ill-fated 2008 presidential bid. Unfortunately, lost in translation was the fact that he possesses a strong libertarian foundation that, when communicated the right way, is both moderate and pragmatic.
Regarding immigration, and in the tradition of the late economist Milton Friedman, Tancredo believes we need to make a choice: we can either have open borders or we can have a welfare state. Combining the two, however, provides disastrous economic and societal consequences.
Unlike most candidates, Tancredo has looked critically at some of these consequences. And his responses may just surprise you. While Hickenlooper has made a fortune off microbreweries and bars, Tancredo has focused on ending the federal war against marijuana--a substance scientifically proven to be far less harmful to the human body than alcohol.
With Mexican drug dealers engaged in a murderous rampage of a race to meet America's ceaseless demand for marijuana, Tancredo has seen the light. The easiest way to disarm drug cartels is to legalize domestic marijuana production and consumption, thus removing much of the incentive to smuggle drugs into our country.
This is not to say Tancredo pro-pot. He doesn't have to be. Instead, he's a realist in search of solutions. Decades of prohibition have led us to a point where nearly half of all adult Americans admit to having used pot, and nearly a thousand Colorado inmates are behind bars to the tune of $30,000 a year for no offense greater than having tested positive for marijuana use while out on parole or probation.
Our children are picking up the tab. For each U.S. citizen born today, he or she is handed an invoice for $45,000 as their share of our national debt--much of which is owed to foreign governments who would love for nothing more than America to default on its loans.
We can no longer afford to accept business as usual. While Tancredo has found himself in hot water various times over the years for off-the-cuff public statements, he's running in a year when anything less than a demand for dynamic and radical reforms should be seen for what it is--generational child abuse.
Too often dismissed as a law-and-order conservative, his Congressional record demonstrates repeated support for an amendment to the Department of Justice funding bill that sought to prohibit any federal money being used to "enforce drug laws in contradiction to state law."
Tancredo cares about our kids--and he cares enough to question each and every aspect of how our government treats them. He has questioned the federal government's role in education, going so far as to call for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education. Regardless of how voters receive this position--or if they can grasp its complicated justifications--the bottom line remains the same: Less money spent on pot prohibition could directly fuel funding for schools.
Prior to his tenure in Congress, Tancredo taught at my public junior high school. This is not a guy who hates kids. Rather, he's an advocate for eliminating red tape and bureaucracy at a time when America's students continue to lose their competitive advantage against their peers around the world. Not only are we stealing from our children's pocketbooks, we're also damning them to adulthoods of global inferiority.
Without detailing the August soap opera of a roller coaster that led to the Republican Party's unfortunate nomination of Dan Maes as its candidate, it is worth noting that Maes now finds himself polling at just over 10 percent, an especially pathetic performance given that the average Republican candidate in Colorado can expect a five to 10 point generic advantage over his or her Democratic challenger.
In 2010, Colorado voters split their voter registration nearly evenly between Republican, Democrat, and Independent, with a growing number expressing increasing skepticism about the role or integrity of a two-party system.
One of the direct beneficiaries of this frustration: Tancredo's candidacy on the ultra-conservative American Constitution Party ticket. Certainly, a vote for Tancredo is a vote against the status quo. Hey, he'll certainly take it.
But there is also another, more interesting element. He's a liberal in the truest sense of the word. Over-the-top at times, yes, but with his finger directly on the pulse of the outrage and fear permeating this year's election. Don't confuse him with the ACP. As he's proven once before, he sees political parties as vehicles--and he'll dump one for another if he believes it will help him achieve his goals.
When voters fill out their ballots just days from now, they'll face three distinct choices.
First, they can support Republican Maes--an arrogant and ignorant social conservative who personifies the worst stereotypes about conservatives, and who despite filing for bankruptcy himself, frequently punctuates his speeches with calls for personal responsibility.
Second, they can elect Hickenlooper, a moderate Denver Democrat who has governed the city with the same skills that made him a successful businessman. A savvy public relations animal, he thrives in raising capital and expanding services. It worked in the private sector, but now that he's playing with taxpayer money (after successfully championing voter-approved tax increases to the tune of billions of dollars) his ongoing support for new symphony seats and public art funding seems downright classist--burdening small business owners and working families on the brink of falling apart financially. He claims he'll cut spending as soon as it's "economically feasible"--but as his track record offers any hint (as I've analyzed previously), this day will likely never come.
Or third, Colorado can choose Tancredo, a passionate activist who despite years in Congress still comes across a little rough around the edges. This is where I'll hang my hat. He gets the things that matter most to me. No, he won't woo you with his oratory skills, he'll inevitably shock you at times, but ultimately, he's proven himself to be the best candidate we've got to turn this state around.
Let's get scrappy. Let's get lean. Let's forget the two-party dinosaur for a moment. And in celebration of one of the most ironic political twists Colorado has seen in nearly a generation, let's elect a candidate who abandoned his political party in the name of a larger cause--saving our state from the dire consequences of good intentions gone bad.
Vote Tom Tancredo, the conservative, liberal, progressive, open-minded stalwart we need in 2010.