[dropcap]A[/dropcap]t this point, the single photograph might have gained as much attention as has the entire “Viva Tancredo” campaign launched in heavily hispanic Pueblo this week by Tom Tancredo in his race to become Colorado governor.
The snapshot was taken by Pueblo Chieftain photographer John Jaques on Wednesday outside the candidate’s local campaign office. It is worth more than many thousands of words.
Jacques captured the former congressman and famously controversial anti-illegal-immigration firebrand standing amid a small crowd on the sunny street outside the building. There are Tancredo supporters and protesters in the frame. A man holds a sign aloft. It bears a single word printed in capital letters: “RACIST.” The sign hovers over Tancredo’s head. The power of the shocking word held over the candidate in public and printed above a news story on the campaign sucks all the air from the other signs held up in the photo and colors the expressions on the faces of the people in the photo. Which is why the photo is being passed around the Web today.
Look closely, though, and the story the photo tells expands. The RACIST sign appears to be held by a Tancredo supporter. It is meant as a response to accusations leveled at the candidate. An arrow in the corner of the sign under the word points to a man who is not Tancredo. It points to a bearded man in sunglasses holding a protest sign calling Tancredo a “xenophobic bigot.” That protest sign, however, is mostly obscured. It’s the RACIST sign that everyone can see. As gun lovers in Colorado would say, the Tancredo team has apparently shot itself in the foot.
The bearded man is Pueblo Councilman Al Gurule. He came with his protest sign and he told Chieftain reporter Peter Roper that “Pueblo’s Hispanics should just line up on the street and tell [Tancredo] to get lost.”
The growing web-popularity of the photo underlines the level of difficulty Tancredo will have winning Hispanic votes — or the votes of any immigrant group. Tancredo has been provocative and offensive on the sensitive and complex topic of immigration for a decade. His past political record is an albatross of enormous weight in a town like Pueblo, and his present political pals are an equal or greater liability.
In December Arizona’s hardcore anti-illegal immigration Sheriff Joe Arpaio sent out a fundraising letter of support for Tancredo. Arpaio is a one of the most controversial figures in the country on the issue of immigrant rights. He has been accused of abuse of power and misuse of funds. He is being sued for racial profiling. His outdoor desert prisons, where inmates are forced to wear pink underwear, and his racially tinged investigation of President Obama’s birth certificate have made national headlines.
The ground the new “Viva Tancredo” campaign has to cover is political terrain as wide, rough and punishing as any stretch of the Sonora desert.