Old Joe Biden has done appalling damage to America, but he didn’t come out of nowhere: if you’ve ever wondered how things got so bad so quickly, the short answer is that they didn’t. The chaos, anti-Americanism, and authoritarianism of the Biden administration are the result of years of self-serving politicians of both parties looking to their own narrow interests rather than those of the American people.
On the other side, Donald Trump didn’t come out of nowhere either. During ten tumultuous years in Congress, a presidential campaign, and two campaigns for governor of Colorado, Tom Tancredo stood indefatigably for America-First principles before virtually anyone else dared to do so. The title of his new memoir, I Was Trump Before Trump was Cool, is as whimsical as it is accurate.
Take the border crisis (please). When Tancredo first arrived in Congress in 1999, he thought that other Congressional Republicans would join him in fighting against illegal immigration. He thought wrong. Tancredo recounts:
Shortly after I found out where the bathrooms were, I began to realize that on at least that one issue, immigration, I had no allies. I actually was surprised at that. I thought certainly that there would be other Republicans who would be willing to jump in on this particular fray, but that was not the case. There were people there who had talked about the subject once in a while and presented themselves as anti-illegal immigration. But in fact, there were none who wanted actually to step out farther than that on the issue. The reason was because the leadership opposed it, and the president opposed it. They both oppose any immigration reform, and when they oppose it, they appeal to two loyalties: your loyalty to the party and your desire to keep funds flowing into your reelection campaigns.
On one occasion, Tancredo got permission to show a House Republican caucus meeting a four-minute video of illegals crossing into the U.S. at Organ Pipe Cactus National Park in Arizona. “When we started the tape,” he recalls, “there were over 200 members sitting there in the caucus. When it ended four minutes later, there were half a dozen. All the rest had taken off, and did so boisterously saying, ‘Why the hell did you bring this into the caucus? It’s just a lot of trouble.’ So that was another learning curve that I had, in terms of how the issue was going to be accepted by my colleagues.” And remember, these were the Republicans.
Tancredo’s reminiscences evoke a vanished America: he tells of his grandfather, nine years old and unable to speak English, arriving in the United States with a note pinned to his shirt: “Please send me to Iowa,” to the home of his aunt. It took the boy two and a half years to travel from New York out West, and when he did, he overshot Iowa and ended up in Colorado, where he settled and where Tom Tancredo was born.
Tancredo’s start in politics was just as improbable: he was teaching high school civics (this was before high schoolers learned only that the Founding Fathers were racist slave owners and America was to be despised) when he dared all his students to get involved somehow in politics. He stipulated, of course, in this pre-woke era, that they were free to support any candidate or cause, so long as they did something. They responded by challenging him: “What are you doing?”
Ultimately the students and the teacher agreed: if all the students worked on some campaign or cause, teacher Tancredo would run for office. He ended up being elected to the State House, then to the U.S. Congress, and ultimately made a run for the presidency in 2008, solely in order to try to force John McCain, Mitt Romney, and the other Republicans in the race to do something about the Southern border.
Tancredo’s reminiscences of the presidential campaign had me laughing out loud (he was always renowned for his charm and humor in a town that takes itself entirely too seriously), but they were also revealing of the power of the media (his account of how Chris Matthews made sure his campaign remained marginal is worth the price of admission) and a great many other ills that still plague the country and were only dimly understood in those days.
Through it all, and often under intense pressure from Republican Party leaders, Tancredo remained that rarest of politicians: one who was genuinely committed to his principles and remained true to them. When party bosses rebuked him and ordered him to get in line behind the Republican establishment’s open-borders globalism and weak echo of the Leftist agenda, he responded: “I’ve won eight elections to get here, and took an oath every time I was sworn in. None of those oaths involved swearing allegiance to a party or Governor or President. It was always to the Constitution of the United States of America.”
If only there were more like him. Today’s conservative politicians should read I Was Trump Before Trump Was Cool as an instruction manual.