In “Down But Not Out,” our latest Notable Narrative, writer Robert Sanchez checks in with Tom Tancredo, who was a candidate for governor of Colorado just a few short months ago. Made famous by his statements about bombing Muslim holy sites and references to Miami as a Third World country, Tancredo had an outsize presence in pre-election coverage nationwide.
Appearing in the February 2011 issue of 5280 magazine, the story opens with a sentence that pulls readers in so close they nestle in Tancredo’s pocket:
Tom Tancredo is blazing east across a cold, empty stretch of blacktop near the Colorado-Nebraska border with two shotguns in the back of his wife’s Toyota minivan, a handful of cigars hidden in a coat pocket, and the radio tuned to a conservative talk show.
Sanchez delivers his tale in the style of Gay Talese, who excels at focusing on competitors in defeat. Yet even the first scene, in which Tancredo is stopped by a sheriff’s deputy for speeding, sends an early signal to readers that we should not count Tancredo out too soon.
Mental illness, issues about military service, Tancredo’s involvement in addressing the Sudanese crisis, and unlikely reflections on his life from those who know him pop like firecrackers across the narrative landscape. Yet what makes Sanchez’s story is the hunting trip ride-along that bookends the piece. At one point, Sanchez rifles through the detritus of Tancredo’s glove compartment in search of car registration and insurance documents to give to police. And after the former Congressman has successfully bagged a handful of pheasants, Sanchez rides home in the back seat with his subject – the better to watch him close up – and realizes that Tancredo still has his sights set on bigger things.