Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at a election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
Chuck Burton/AP

Republican Senate hopeful equated welfare and ‘reparations’

North Carolina’s state legislature considered a resolution in 2007 expressing formal regret for the state’s previous support for slavery. Republican Thom Tillis, now the state House Speaker and a U.S. Senate candidate, supported the resolution.
But as Daniel Strauss reported, Tillis issued a statement at the time elaborating on his perspective, connecting the resolution to his concerns about “reparations.”
“This measure does not obligate legislative members to provide reparations. A subset of the democrat [sic] majority has never ceased to propose legislation that is de facto reparations and they will continue to do so as long as they are in the majority,” Tillis said. “Federal and State [sic] governments have redistributed trillions of dollars of wealth over the years by funding programs that are at least in part driven by their belief that we should provide additional reparations.”
“I believe there are several conservative democrats [sic] who are prepared join Republican [sic] in OPPOSITION to measures that propose new entitlements and reparations,” Tillis added. “However, a vote against the resolution would most likely eliminate any chance that we would get support from more conservative members of the democrat party [sic] members to oppose such measures.”
To be sure, this is plainly dumb. Indeed, it’s arguably another “macaca” moment for the far-right candidate. Tillis’ argument seemed to be that Republicans need not fear the slavery resolution creating the basis for reparations because, as Tillis argued, African Americans already receive “de facto reparations” in the form of public assistance.
In other words, while trying to defend his vote in support of a Democratic resolution, Tillis ended up making a racially charged argument about the social safety net. The Republican effectively said welfare and reparations are the same thing, which is clearly an ugly and ignorant charge for anyone, especially a U.S. Senate candidate, to make.
But there’s a larger context that arguably makes Tillis’ remarks slightly worse.
Brian Beutler yesterday flagged the Republican’s 2011 remarks on pitting Americans against one another in order to dismantle anti-poverty programs.
“What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on 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. 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 taking care of you.’ And we’ve got to start having that serious discussion. It won’t happen next year. Wrong time. Because it’s going to be politically charged. One of the reasons why I may never run for another elected office is cause some of these things may just get me railroaded out of town. But in 2013 I honestly believe that we have to do it.”
As Brian added, “The only thing missing from this exegesis is an explicit reference to racial minorities, reparations, and so on. But the subtext is pretty clear. And when you read it in light of his comments about the slavery resolution, it becomes painfully obvious who in Tillis’ mind deserves government assistance and who needs to be conquered.”
But we can perhaps even go further still. In 2012, Tillis was asked in an interview about his party’s difficulties in connecting with minority communities. Tillis said the Republican agenda is “appealing to everybody,” but went on to say, “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.”
It sounded an awful lot Thom like Tillis sees the “traditional population” of North Carolina as the white population.
Taken together, Tillis’ rhetoric probably won’t help his campaign reach a broad and diverse base.