Political candidates, especially some of our friends over on the far right, still haven’t received the memo that in this day and age, cameras are everywhere. No matter what you say, where you say it, or when you said it, chances are very good that someone will send footage of anything slightly dumb that comes out of your mouth to the media for the right price. In turn, they’ll have a field day with your words, taken out of context or not.
We saw that with Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell in 2010, and we saw that with Mitt Romney’s “47%” comment in 2012, which was probably the decisive nail in the coffin of his doomed campaign. This year, the most prominent GOP candidate, one Thom Tillis of North Carolina, has followed the customary election year Republican candidate tradition of saying something really dumb. Granted, these were comments he made back in 2011 and 2012 when he wasn’t yet a declared candidate for the United States Senate, but come on dude, anything you’ve ever said or done is likely to come up as political ammunition.
In 2012, Thom Tillis made a statement during an interview which just blasts the racial dogwhistle meant to get out the GOP base.
From The Fix blog over at The Washington Post:
“The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population and the other immigrant populations are growing in significant numbers. We’ve got to resonate with those future voters.”
Tillis’ communications director explained the comment to TPM: “‘Traditional’ North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations. A lot of the state’s recent population growth is from people who move from other states to live, work, and settle down in North Carolina. Thom Tillis, for example.” (Source)
Mr. Tillis, I was born in the state to your north, Virginia. I grew up in the Republican Party as it began its slide to the far right, grabbing up the last of the angry old racist Dixiecrats, and I know damn well what you’re talking about when you refer to “the traditional population.”
For the readers, when Thom Tillis talks about a “traditional population,” we can probably safely assume that he isn’t talking about the people who were here first. Native Americans are only 1.5% of the North Carolina population and I’m pretty sure they aren’t a key piece of the GOP’s voting base either.
What Thom Tillis is talking about is the GOP’s serious, serious problem with minority voters. They recently announced a $60 million outreach program because they understand how potentially lethal a problem it is when it comes to their future relevancy in American politics. And yet, Thom Tillis has repeatedly shown that he still thinks he can say incredibly disgusting things in what he believes to be safe company and somehow not expect to have to apologize later. For example, this video from 2011 in which he said the following:
“What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance,” he said at the time. “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. 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.’”(Source)
The cornerstone of the continued Republican success across the South over the last few decades has been the “Southern Strategy,” and his remarks show all the hallmarks of someone who uses that strategy to gin up the base every election. The problem for Thom Tillis and the rest of the GOP is that this blueprint cannot work forever with the shrinking of his “traditional population.”
You see, while using the racial dogwhistles and xenophobia has worked for all this time to convince poor and working class whites that minorities were their enemy, it doesn’t work so well on the younger and more diverse voting population that is moving into North Carolina and other states across the South like Texas, Virginia, or Georgia. These states are inevitably going blue and remarks like the ones made by Thom Tillis are ironically only expediting the process.
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