The fact that the Republican Party establishment rallied behind Thom Tillis in North Carolina's U.S. Senate primary might give voters the impression that he's a mainstream, center-right candidate. He's not
Tillis has helped cut off access to medical care for struggling families; he opposes gay rights; he's helped impose ridiculous new voting restrictions; and he's curtailed reproductive rights while expanding opportunities to carry loaded guns in bars. Tillis also happens to be a climate denier who cheered the government shutdown and suggested lowering the federal minimum wage to zero.
is the guy the GOP backed because his primary rivals were seen as too extreme. But to fully appreciate what Tillis brings to the table, consider this striking clip
from Monday's edition of "Hardball with Chris Matthews."
Matthews aired that clip the day before the North Carolina primary. You can tell from the discussion how much that state race matters in national politics – only more so now that Tillis has won the Republican nomination outright.
For those who can't watch clips online, here's what Tillis told a group of voters in 2011:
"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 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 because some of these things may just get me railroaded out of town."
As Brian Beutler joked
, the Republican "fuses all of the ugliest elements of conservative politics into one mustache-twiddling, Bond-villainesque soliloquy laying bare the GOP's 'divide and conquer' strategy to undermine the social safety net."
The GOP's "47 percent" problem
cost them dearly a couple of years ago, and the issue only appears to be growing more serious.
The "divide and conquer" line seems relevant. As Chris Matthews noted in his commentary on the video: "The goal here politically is to get the sick people to attack the poor people." A Tillis spokesman didn't answer my emailed request for clarification of his comments. [...] There's no reason to doubt GOP suggestions that Tillis is the strongest challenger to Hagan, who of course has plenty of vulnerabilities of her own. But the general election battle has not been joined, and once it is, Dems may have more to work with in defining Tillis on terms favorable to them than is immediately apparent.
There is a certain irony to Tillis' rhetoric. Whenever Democrats suggest asking more from the very wealthy in the form of slightly higher taxes, Republicans aren't just apoplectic, they're also fairly specific in their condemnations: Democrats, they argue, are trying to pit Americans against each other in class warfare.
And yet, here we have a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate literally and explicitly arguing that people with power should "divide and conquer" struggling Americans who rely on public assistance. Tillis envisions an environment in which policymakers pit those in need against one another, in order to cut off benefits for those on the losing end of the fight.
This is Mitt Romney's 47-percent video on steroids. One wonders if some of these things may just get him railroaded out of town.