In a story posted by Daniel Strauss of Talking Points Memo on Tuesday, Thom Tillis, North Carolina’s State House Speaker and Republican nominee for US Senate, did an interview in 2012 where he suggested that Hispanics and blacks are not ‘traditional’ Americans. While being interviewed by Chris William of the Carolina Business Review, the conversation steered towards racial demographics and the challenges the Republican Party faces in the near future. Tillis said that the party needs to do a better job of reaching out to minorities. He also feels that the GOP’s principles of limited government and reliance on the free market are ones that many minorities should embrace.
However, at the same time, Tillis appeared to bemoan the fact that the percentage of whites in the population, in both North Carolina and the US, is shrinking while the Hispanic and black populations are growing. (Fact: While the Hispanic population rate has been growing for a while now, the percentage of blacks in the population has remained steady.) Tillis then claimed that white Americans are the “traditional population” of North Carolina and the United States and that the GOP needs to reach out to the future voters, who aren’t part of that “traditional” demographic.
Below is the full video of the interview, courtesy of Carolina Business Review:
And here is the transcript of the relevant point of the discussion via Talking Points Memo:
William: Let’s start fairly broad with the Republican Party. You watch— and probably see many more— polls than I do or we do in general. When you watch what’s happening in presidential politics. When you see this shift that Hispanics used to be in the Republican Party and now they’re clearly on the other side of the aisle —when you see all of these things that have transpired, what do you think about? what is going on in the Republican Party?
Tillis: Well I think it has more to do what’s going on in the demographics of this country and recognizing that and then having a platform and a message that resonates. If you take a look, you mentioned the Hispanic population —the African American population, there’s a number of things that our party stands for that they embrace. I think we have to do a better job of communicating it. I think we have to do a better job of being out there in between elections, garnering support for the things that we’re trying to advance. And I think that we need a focus on limited government and free markets which is something that’s appealing to everybody. That kind of work will position us for those growing sectors. 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.
TPM reached out to the Tillis camp to see if the wannabe Senator had anything to say in response to this. The response from Tillis’ communications director was laughable.
“”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.”
Sorry. That is NOT what Tillis said at all. He specifically pointed to both African Americans and Hispanics and compared them to the “traditional” population of the state and country. This had nothing to do with people who have lived in North Carolina and everything to do with Tillis’ views on race in the state and nation as a whole. Essentially, he thinks only white people are real, salt of the earth Americans. Anyone else is just an ‘other,’ which is probably why he’s been so forceful in trying to get voter suppression laws on the books in North Carolina.
It remains to be seen if this will greatly effect the US Senate race. Tillis is matched up with incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. Polls show that the race is a toss up, and Republicans are hoping to flip this seat in their quest to take over the majority in the Senate. However, much like 2012 with Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, and 2010 with Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller and Ken Buck, the Republicans might see easily winnable seats slip out through their fingers due to bad candidates saying idiotic things.