Tom Tancredo's misplaced devotion

In an interview with the Colorado Statesman, Tom Tancredo opined about the decision by Colorado GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams to seek another term.

Unfortunately, Tancredo -- whom I consider a friend and whom I aggressively supported, albeit starting a little late, in his quest for the governorship in November -- went off into a sexual preference-oriented mini-rant against big-money Democrat donors.

Tancredo started off with a good point about the negative unintended consequences of campaign finance laws supported by so-called reformers: "I hope they’re satisfied, because all they have done is drive it into the hands of Jared Polis, Tim Gill and Pat Stryker."

He was right about that, although since his election to Congress in 2008, Jared Polis has been substantially absent from local politics and political funding.

Unfortunately, Tom continued in a vein that I think makes him, and by extension his supporters, look small minded, even ignorant:

“We could do the same if we had any dedicated heterosexuals who were so completely devoted to heterosexuality,” he said, claiming that, “the motivation for Gill and Polis was to advance the homosexual agenda. We don’t have anything like that — we conservatives — so we are at a distinct disadvantage.”

It's certainly true that Tim Gill's motivation revolves substantially around "gay rights".  And while I do not support government-sanctioned gay marriage (because I do not support any government involvement in marriage for any two people), it's not a ridiculous argument for gay marriage supporters to claim that they are being treated unequally under the law.  Again, I don't buy the argument because I don't believe there is a fundamental right to a marriage sanctioned by government.

But someone need not be "devoted to homosexuality" to take up that fight.  After all, many or most abolitionists or even white civil rights crusaders a century later were not "devoted to" blacks.  They were heroically devoted to certain principles of equality, whether under God or under the law.

As for Jared Polis, he is my Congressman and a friend.  While he obviously supports gay marriage, it's clear to me that Polis' primary areas of interest are education and immigration, both of which are areas in which Tom has substantial interest, opinions, and expertise and thus areas in which perhaps Tancredo and Polis could have an interesting conversation.

(Tom and Jared: Want to be on my radio show discussing these things???)

While interviewing Polis on my radio show on the issue of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", he said "You've known me a long time, Ross.  I never wear a sign around my neck saying what my orientation is."  That's exactly right.  In my discussions with Polis over the last several years, issues surrounding gays were only the topic of conversation when I brought them up; Jared always wants to talk about education or immigration or health care or tax policy.

In the interest of maintaining my position as the President of the Society to Perpetuate Harmful Stereotypes, I would also note that Jared's fashion sense offers no clue as to his sexual orientation.  OK, although that was intended to be funny, there's a germ of seriousness there: as far as Jared Polis' public life goes, at least during the few years I've known him, there is not only precious little to suggest he is substantially motivated by sexual orientation politics, there isn't even much to give one a hint that he's gay if you didn't already know. Hardly the characteristics of someone "devoted to homosexuality."

Jared Polis is a committed and, as I tell him directly, occasionally economically confused, liberal.  He has infrequent but much appreciated flashes of support for entrepreneurs and understanding of the damage that tax hikes can do, strangely intertwined with support for single-payer health care.  He supports competition in education while falling prey to the siren song of universal preschool, even though data on such programs show no lasting benefit but high cost.  He has repeatedly proposed legislation using tax cut incentives to spur investment, but supported the fatally-flawed Dodd-Frank "reform bill". In short, Jared is, on political issues, slightly better than the average Democrat. And none of this has anything to do with his sexual orientation any more than my views on those issues have anything to do with my heterosexuality.

Speaking of my heterosexuality, I am who and what I am.  I don't think that much about it and I'm certainly not "devoted to" my sexual preference (which is not to say that I'm open to changing it!) as devotion implies frequent thought and attention to the principle involved and upholding it as a model of near-perfection or at least of something worthy of adoration. Sexual preference simply can't rationally be any of those things.  I would bet money that Jared Polis agrees with me, even if Tim Gill might not.

I've frequently said in the past that I think the "Christian right" makes an error in trying to use government to impose its vision of morality on the world.  First of all, it's an improper function of government.  Second, once the door is opened to allowing government enforcement of morality, then when liberals take over government they can push their morality on us, which I don't want any more than I want Focus on the Family's view imposed by government.

"Conservatives" argue that the left already imposes morality, so they're just pushing back.  There is some truth to that, but the push-back should be to eliminate the use of government power and money to support one side or the other's view on abortion, drugs, or marriage, just to name a few of the most prominent "social issues."  Furthermore, the push-back should be in the form of supporting federalism, not a conservative version of a federal Nanny State.

I cannot support conservatives who are motivated by a "devotion to heterosexuality".  If you're pro-life, don't have an abortion.  If you're pro-heterosexuality, don't sleep with men.  If you're anti-drug, don't smoke pot.  None of this should require "devotion" and certainly none if it should involve the federal government.

Separately from the rhetorical and philosophical implications of Tancredo's use of the word "devotion" and characterizations of certain Democrats, I think he makes a substantial political error by going down that path.

The American public is, particularly during such difficult economic times, uninterested -- to put it kindly -- in Republicans with extreme views on social issues.  For my money, anyone claiming a "devotion" to a particular sexual preference can be -- and certainly would be -- characterized as extreme.  Tom, could you have already forgotten Ken Buck, a man who should have handily beaten appointed Senator Michael "Who?" Bennet but who was sunk by  extreme statements about abortion (no exception for rape or incest) and homosexuality (it's a choice)?

Statements like Buck's -- and like Tancredo's -- must make voters, at least the critical-to-get unaffiliated voters, question the motivation and focus on Republican/conservative candidates.  As a friend of mine wondered after reading Tancredo's interview, it makes one wonder whether "(Tancredo's) public service is more about his devotion to heterosexuality than stopping illegal immigration or improving education and school choice. I don't yet believe that is the case, but I am beginning to consider the possibility."  Creating this sort of debate in the minds of voters is a huge political mistake for an ambitious politician like Tom Tancredo.

It's unfortunate that Tancredo made statements about "devotion to heterosexuality" as a political motivator in the same story in which he recounted switching his political registration back to the Republican Party.  It's exactly the kind of press and reputation reinforcement which the GOP doesn't need if it hopes to thrive in a purple state like Colorado.

In the meantime, one can't help but wonder, regarding the decision by Dick Wadhams to seek re-election as state GOP Chairman, whether Tom's "devotion to heterosexuality" explains why he decided he "would not support Dick."  (Sorry, in my devotion to not letting an easy joke opportunity pass by, I just couldn't help myself.)

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