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Friday, October 28, 2016

The Tea Party Will Quickly Learn To Love ‘Establishment’ Candidate Thom Tillis

The Tea Party Will Quickly Learn To Love ‘Establishment’ Candidate Thom Tillis

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis cruised to a surprisingly comfortable victory in Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary, and the media reaction was quick and dramatic.

“GOP establishment 1, Tea Party 0,” CNN declared.

“The Tea Party’s North Carolina wipeout,” Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote.

The results are “sending shivers down the spine of Tea Party leadership,” MSNBC’s Tamron Hall exclaimed on News Nation.

There is some truth in these reactions. National Republicans who waded into the race divided along the usual “civil war” battle lines, with “establishment” heavyweights such as Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads backing Tillis, and Tea Party figures like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and FreedomWorks lining up behind the second-place finisher, right-wing obstetrician Greg Brannon.

But while their favored candidate may have lost on Tuesday, Tea Party leaders should still be feeling pretty good about the Republican nominee to challenge Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in November. Despite his establishment label, Tillis is poised to represent the right’s interests perfectly if North Carolinians send him to Washington.

Tillis has served in North Carolina’s General Assembly since 2007, and as speaker since 2011. It would be hard to have a more conservative record than he’s compiled in that time. Under Tillis’ leadership, the legislature rewrote the state’s tax code to the benefit of the rich and the detriment of the poor, cut $500 million from public education while shifting money towards school vouchers, slashed unemployment benefits, imposed some of the most restrictive anti-abortion measures in the nation (by quietly attaching them to an unrelated motorcycle safety bill), passed a set of draconian voting laws that limit access to the ballot (particularly for black voters), and essentially made it illegal to predict that the sea level will rise. And that only scratches the surface of the right’s plans for the state.

Throughout his Senate campaign, Tillis has made no effort to distance himself from the far-right legislature he leads. On the contrary; he’s declared that he’s proud of the state’s “conservative revolution,” and proposed ways to push North Carolina even further to the right. For example, he’s suggested that Congress should eradicate the minimum wage altogether.

Even as Tillis was scoring a victory for the “establishment” on Tuesday, video emerged of him urging his fellow Republicans to “divide and conquer” Americans on public assistance.

“We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice, in her condition, that needs help and that we should help,” he says in the tape, which was filmed in 2011. “And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say ‘at some point, you’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you.’”

On Wednesday morning, the newly minted Republican candidate said he regretted the phrasing he used in the video — but he declined to back away from the sentiment.

It’s true that Tillis is not as far to the right as Brannon, the Tea Party’s chosen candidate. But who could be? Brannon, who argued that food stamps are equivalent to slavery, and that interstate toll roads are fascism, was about as extreme as a candidate could get, even in a southern Republican primary. But that doesn’t make Tillis a moderate — something that conservative voters understood going into the polls.

Tea Party groups also understand this; it’s why they wasted no time in lining up behind Tillis after Brannon conceded on Tuesday, and it’s likely why they put barely any money behind Brannon’s campaign to begin with (although a more cynical observer might conclude that they had other reasons for holding on to the cash).

Make no mistake: Although he “defeated” them in the primary, if Tillis does go on to defeat Kay Hagan in November, Tea Party Republicans will end up overjoyed with the Senate’s newest ultraconservative.

Photo: North Carolina National Guard via Flickr

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  • Girl Downunder

    I’ve decided something. Might seem an odd comment but…

    I have divided humans into two groups: psychopaths & codependents.

    Please hear me out.

    Codependents work very hard to excuse or to understand people. Psychopaths feed on this human nature.

    Be very wary of laws designed to “rule” your everyday.

    • charleo1

      I agree, we should be wary of laws that rule our everyday.
      But, why can’t the codependents, who work very hard
      understanding people, understand the Psychopaths are
      feeding on them?

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    Wasn’t it under Tillis “leadership” that the North Carolina State Legislature officially made it illegal to mention “climate change” or “global warming” in any official documents regarding the coastal erosion?

    • awakenaustin

      Yes. I believe the he author was referring to that when he mentioned the legislation which made it illegal to predict the that the sea level will rise. What next, making it illegal to notice the sea level is rising.
      Don’t bother me with those pesky facts. Evidence is for punks.

      I used to have absolute faith that the arc of civilization would always move upward in a positive direction. Now, after hearing on a daily basis the retrograde ideas, beliefs and opinions of these yahoos, I am not so sure.

  • John Cobb

    I object to labeling Tillis as “conservative” in the various forms of the word. “Conservative” in reference to the Republican party lost its meaning in 1981 when Reagan handed the country over to the banks and the billionaires. The Republican party, by sponsoring the robbing of the poor and giving to the rich (reverse Robin Hood) ceased to have a raison d’etre at that point. In effect, it became merely a system for laundering bribes to carefully placed Republican politicians in order to gradually put in place David Koch’s terrifying mandate from when he ran for Vice President. (This plan is on track, by the way.) Tillis is clearly part of that machine – a way he can get rich quick. So I insist: there is nothing “conservative” about robbery. Continually using that misleading term just promotes apathy, and distracts people from seeing that scum like Tillis are endangering not only our democracy, but everybody’s ability to avoid eventual homelessness and starvation.

    • jointerjohn

      Thank you for pointing out how mistaken we are to call them conservatives. A true conservative would say its none of the government’s business who you marry or sleep with. A true conservative would say its none of the government’s business what a woman does with her reproductive organs. A true conservative would tell business to go to a bank for loans, not the government. A true conservative would say to private and religious schools, “thank you for what you do, but you can’t have the public schools money.” These are not conservatives at all.

  • Elliot J. Stamler

    Why should any of this be a surprise? NC Republicans gave us Jesse Helms (r.i.h.). They are all worse than awful and the only difference between the establishment Republicans and the Tea Partiers is that the former wear better clothes and have more money while the latter are the trailer trash. They form the two wings of what is now American fascism which calls itself conservatism and has Barry Goldwater and Everett Dirksen whirling in their graves.

  • commserver

    ” Tea Party leaders should still be feeling pretty good about the Republican nominee to challenge Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan in November. Despite his establishment label, Tillis is poised to represent the right’s interests perfectly if North Carolinians send him to Washington.”

    It is only a matter of degree. Just like degrees of gray. The only thing is that for many there is no differentiating.

  • RobertCHastings

    In the three years since the Republican Party took control of the North Carolina legislature (both houses) AND the governor’s office, advances under previous Democratic leadership have been seriously degraded. NC once had a progressive income tax, with rates ranging from 6% to 7.5%. Beginning next year, there will be one rate – 5.8%. With the redistricting right won by the Republicans in 2010 with the US Census, many conservative seats in the state have become legacies. Our former governor, Bev Perdue, left politics because it had become so hostile, a typical complaint against conservative groups that have taken over states around the country. Tillis has been, as Speaker of the NC House, instrumental in this change in what was once looked upon by many as a Progressive bright spot in the South. Over the past four years, while taxes on the wealthy will be reduced, the burden on the middle class and the poor has been increased, through adjustments in sales taxes, property taxes, etc. North Carolina, although a segregated state in the 1930s and 1940s, was still among the most progressive in the country, with a roads program that was the envy of many others. When I moved down here in 1960, the roads were decidedly better in NC than in any of the states through which we traveled to get here from Illinois. Things have, indeed, gone downhill, and, should Tillis win in November, that slide will continue, in North Carolina and in the rest of the country.