tom tancredo

Hey GOP: Stand your ground

By Tom Tancredo Editor: We at Backbone America have had our concerns about whether former Rep. Tom Tancredo should have jumped in the recent Colorado gubernatorial race, and about how he then campaigned, and about his uncertain return to the Republican Party. But if such displays of backbone as this column are result of his stance (for now) as a friendly outsider to the GOP, we can only applaud. The piece first appeared on, Nov. 13, under the title, "Bipartisan games or downsizing government?" Well said, Tom!

Bipartisanship is greatly overrated as a formula for good government. Every major government boondoggle in recent memory was launched with bipartisan enthusiasm. Bipartisanship has its role in the day-to-day affairs of government. What separates genuine bipartisanship from bogus bipartisanship is one thing: honesty.

In Congress or any state legislature, it is normal for hundreds of bills to be passed with bipartisan support because much of government consists of making adjustments or improvements in ongoing programs that have broad public support. When dealing with the core functions of government, we seldom see sharp divisions along party lines.

But what we see today is a different thing. Bipartisanship is being urged on Republicans not as a "let's split the difference" compromise for a specific bill but as a principle for shaping the very definition of the problem to be solved. For example, if Republicans agree that the problem to be solved in a budget crisis is a "shortfall in revenues," then the compromise solution will inevitably be some level of tax increases to make up the "shortfall." This then becomes a debate over how to finance the growth of government, not how to reduce the size of government.

The Republican Party won victories in congressional and state races by promising to roll back Obamacare and other expansions of government. If they now squander those victories by abandoning the small-government agenda, they will deserve the scorn and ridicule of not only tea-party activists but concerned citizens everywhere.

In Colorado, the state now has a liberal Democratic governor-elect, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, and a split legislature. Republicans are in the majority in the House and Democrats control the Senate. In this situation, neither party can control the legislative agenda. The question conservatives in Colorado are asking is: Will the legislative agenda become truly "bipartisan," or will Republicans be maneuvered into debating the details of compromises on the Democratic agenda?

To have a chance at genuine compromise and honest bipartisanship, Republicans must first have an agenda of their own. When leading Colorado Republicans like former Gov. Bill Owens join the Democratic governor-elect's transition team, that serves to give the Democrats' agenda a patina of "bipartisanship" at the outset. When the Democratic agenda is baptized a "bipartisan agenda" on Day 1, by not only the liberal media and interest groups but by a group of co-opted Republicans, legislators who don't buy into that agenda can be easily stigmatized as "partisan obstructionists."

Selling out your party's platform and policy agenda before the first shot is fired is a form of pre-emptive compromise that ought to be called by its right name: surrender. It is not bipartisanship in search of genuine solutions; it is gamesmanship in search of favorable press clippings. Such behavior may be acceptable to "party elders" who are accountable to no one, but it is not acceptable for elected representatives sent to the capitol to tackle tough problems and seek real solutions based on constitutional principles.

As other conservative leaders have observed, Big Government is on autopilot and programmed for a crash. Republicans need to find the off switch. Government needs a fundamental change in direction, not a spare fuel tank.

In Colorado, for example, Republicans in the state legislature would be smart to offer their own agenda as quickly as possible and not wait for the Democrats' "partnership" agenda, which will validate the status quo and seek "innovative" and "creative" (read: deceptive) ways to finance the continued growth of government. They could start with proposing a voucher system for public schools, adoption of the federal E-verify program for denying jobs to illegal aliens, a 10 percent across-the-board reduction in each state agency's budget except transportation, and phasing out state support for the state university system.

The clock is running out for the Republican Party. If they do not begin delivering on their promises, the grass-roots citizens' rebellion that swept them into office will find another vehicle for restoring constitutional liberties. In football terms, it is the middle of the fourth quarter, the score is Big Government 24, Small Government 3, and a field goal is not an acceptable play call.

Tom Tancredo ( is a former five-term congressman from Colorado, 2008 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and 2010 independent candidate for governor. He currently serves as chairman of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and co-chairman of TeamAmericaPac. Tancredo is the author of "In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security."

Has GOP come undone?

(Denver Post, Oct. 10) “Not so fast,” warns the movie hero. He’ll make sure the cad or the con man doesn’t get away with it. One side in American politics has always been the party of “not so fast,” putting the brakes on expansive government power. Today that’s the Republican Party, and they serve the common good in doing it, even when unsuccessful. But I’m concerned that in the governor’s race this year, Colorado Republicans may be so unsuccessful that their restraining influence on political overreach is lost for a long time. Even the most fervent Democrats, if they remember the corruption of power, shouldn’t relish that prospect – though one can see why they’re keeping gleefully silent as Tom Tancredo and Dan Maes rip each other. Voting begins this week. The worry du jour last week was demotion of the GOP to minor-party status if Maes finishes under 10 percent. I don’t think he will, but he obviously won’t win either. In the likely outcome of Democrat John Hickenlooper winning, or the unlikely outcome of the freelancer Tancredo prevailing, the one certainty on Nov. 3 is a defeated, divided, and demoralized Republican establishment – which doesn’t augur well for constitutionalism.

What’s constitutionalism, and who cares? We all should. Our written constitution of self-government, in this state or the United States, is only as strong as the unwritten traditions of fair competition and civic virtue – habits of the heart, as they have been called – that sustain America as a caring community of free people. A jungle ethos of winning at any cost endangers all that. Let's not go there..

Too many on the right in Colorado, I’m sorry to say, already have. To be clear: While this party stalwart is firmly on record as supporting neither Maes nor Tancredo nor Hickenlooper, I have GOP friends in each man’s camp – and our friendship will survive the disagreement. The purpose here is to analyze attitudes, not to slam personalities. The slamming is what has to stop.

Reversing early assurances that he wouldn’t run an anti-Maes campaign, Tom has. On Dan’s side, a frothing anti-Tancredo screed is now online, slinging slurs like “chicken hawk.” It’s more bitter than a primary because there’s no intra-party comity to damp the invective. Tom says he’ll govern as a Republican if elected -- but it wasn’t long ago he emphatically disavowed the party label, and mocked Lincoln for good measure.

Political memories aren’t short. Even if Ken Buck wins, some congressional seats flip, and Democrats suffer legislative losses, a self-wounded GOP will be disadvantaged under the gold dome after this cannibalistic governor’s race. As tax pressures intensify and Obama girds for reelection, Colorado is going to need a party of “not so fast.” Who will it be? The American Constitution Party can’t mount a defense when liberals go on offense.

Whether Tancredo’s ambition succeeds this time, or fizzles as it did in the presidential primaries, many in my party will need to think long and hard about whether the end justifies the means. Maes’s undeniable weaknesses were but a relative excuse, not an absolute justification, for mass desertion of the Republican nominee. Somehow the McInnis disease, scorning party standard-bearers in 2006 and 2008, went epidemic in 2010.

Abandoning long-established institutions for “light and transient causes” violates conservative prudence, the Declaration of Independence warns. Many of the GOP’s finest, including four of Tom’s congressional colleagues, have gambled unconservatively this fall.

They used to say the Episcopal Church was the Republican regulars at prayer. The Tancredo movement seems like the regulars on a fling. Might all this, in hindsight, prove an overreaction? Have we destroyed the village to save it? “She’s come undone,” sang the Guess Who. I hope I’m wrong in applying that to our state’s Grand Old Party.