Did you know that Tom Tancredo has been stumping in New Hampshire? The Tancredo-for-President in 2008 boomlet is real, and over at the blog formerly known as RMPN, Michael Huttner is calling Tancredo a racist. I don't disagree, but I have some concerns about focusing a little too strongly on the R word when speaking of Tancredo and the people he is supporting through his Team America PAC. (Yeah, I guess that as a Littletonite Tancredo figures he'll have the "South Park Republicans" in his back pocket.)
I have a couple of problems with focusing on the racism issue. First, Tancredo will deny it (I think he even has a Latino PR person!) and then you get into a debate about whether or not he is a racist as opposed to whether or not his immigration ideas are good. Then people (many of whom reflexively defend any person accused of racism) will start thinking that if the case that Tancredo is a racist hasn't been proven, then the case against his immigration proposals also hasn't been made. But totally separate from any racist motivation, his ideas are very bad. Just to cite one example, the pessimistic projections being used by the Bush Administration to scare people into supporting his Social Security phase out plan assume that the flow of immigration will almost completely stop -- as Tancredo and his followers would want. If you get rid of this assumption, Social Security starts looking a lot healthier without any changes. There are many arguments to be made against Tancredo's ideas about immigration that don't require you to get into a heated debate about whether he is a racist, and we should make them.
I also fear that there will be progressives (and I don't mean to lump Huttner into this) who will welcome a Tancredo for president campaign thinking that the racism charge will help solidify Latino support for the Democrats. That probably would happen in the short term, but longer term I think Democratic reliance on cries of Republican racism acts as a substitute for real integration of the party, which isn't good. Not to mention, I would prefer it if Tancredo were soundly defeated on the Republican side, leaving his views totally outside of the bounds of accepted political discourse -- even though this might help lead a few Latinos into the Republican tent.
Update: As if on cue, Jerome at MyDD starts salivating over the prospect of a Tancredo candidacy. The problem with this is that Democrats too often don't move their campaigns to Latino voters beyond "Look at what racists the Republicans are!" and then wonder why turnout is so low. While I agree Tancredo would utterly self-destruct in the unlikely event he were to become the GOP nominee (more likely he'd run a third party campaign and destroy the GOP that way) long term it's more effective to give reasons to vote for you than to vote against the other guy.