This is what passes for a “moderate” Republican these days.
It was a particularly revelatory bit of television, and it is one that you should keep in mind because, today, you are going to hear a great deal about how the fact that Tillis won the Republican primary last night was a victory for the Republican “establishment,” because Tillis defeated a genuine whackaloon named Greg Brannon, who had been backed by Tea Party Republicans and by dudebro superstar Senator Aqua Buddha of Kentucky. This interpretation of the results depends vitally on two propositions that are undermined by the very election that is supposed to validate them.
Point The First: As regards the issues, there is no Republican “Establishment” any more. This is because the notion of a Republican Establishment requires that there be at least an occasional flirtation with moderation and there are no Republican moderates any more. (It also requires that there be at least an occasional flirtation with reality, but I don’t expect miracles here.) Tillis is a perfect example. Not only has he presided over a legislative body that is extreme in the legislation it passes, but Tillis himself has signed aboard the “personhood” crusade on reproductive rights, and he has resolutely stood in opposition to marriage equality. The difference between Tillis and Brannon, in terms of what their campaigns say about what they’d do if they were elected, is solely based on the theory that Brannon was so far off the wall that Tillis could be positioned by the media as being a moderate. The goalposts, by now, probably can be found on Mars.
Point The Second: As regards the politics, there is no Republican party any more. There is merely a universe of powerful conservative institutions, each of them with their independent sources of income and power, and none of them under the effective control of the formal party apparatus. They operate on their own imperatives, and they support whoever they want to support, regardless of what Mitch McConnell or obvious anagram Reince Priebus thinks about what they’re doing. Because, within the party, the gamut of positions on most issues runs from A to A, these independent institutions can simply line up behind the candidate whom they feel is more electable, since they can rest easily knowing that their interests are covered by whomever is elected. Brannon was more easily cast as a crackpot, so those institutions decided that Tillis could be elected. Nothing about him is remotely risky.
As should be obvious from the video, Tillis is as blackhearted a reactionary as one currently expects a champion of modern conservatism to be. He will be central to the attempt to recreate the newly insane state legislature of the newly insane state of North Carolina on a national basis. This should puzzle no one. The long game of corporatized, radically extreme Republican politics is coming down to the final moves. Nothing — and certainly not the nomination of “Establishment” hero Thom Tillis — can stop that now.