“THANK GOD FOR TALK RADIO!”….Why is Tom Tancredo such a monomaniac on the subject of illegal immigration? In an interview on our radio show with Markos Kounalakis and Peter Laufer, he explains that a lot of it isn’t about winning, it’s about redefining the playing field:
What happens is, you provide people with some space to get into where they can say, “That guy is a racist xenophobe. That guy is just so crazy that we can take a more moderate stance.”
….I have to set the bar as high as I can. I’m being completely candid with you. If I had actually set out to become president, then of course it would be ludicrous for me to do it in the way I’m doing it. I don’t have that as my goal; I never have. The only way I can get on that plane and go to Iowa or New Hampshire and spend night after night in hotels in places you’ve never even heard of is by saying, “Think about why you’re doing this, Tom. It is because the issue is important. You are the person that is advancing it.” I have the luxury of saying, “I will set the goalposts as far as I can down the field because then I will have a better chance of getting the game played on my side.”
So: Politics 101. Stake out an ultra-extreme position so that when the rest of your party endorses a merely extreme position it looks like it’s a moderate compromise.
Question: why don’t liberals do this? The stock answer is that we’re wimps, but I don’t think that’s it. At least, not always. I think the answer is talk radio. Our extremists don’t succeed in redefining the playing field because there’s no institutional infrastructure behind them that converts lunacy into political pressure. But conservative extremists have talk radio, which can mobilize hundreds of thousands of phone calls in a single day if they put their mind to it. Tancredo himself explains what happened a few months ago when the White House tried to push through a proposal he didn’t like: “The phones at the Senate offices were shut down because of overload. On Tuesday, we had only thirty-six senators on our side, and on Thursday, we had fifty-three. Every single vote that changed was a senator running for reelection in 2008. Thank God for talk radio and the Internet!”