We’re about to see if Sen. Thom Tillis really stands by the courage of his convictions. A couple of weeks ago, he wrote an op-ed explaining why he would vote to block Trump’s emergency declaration to secure money for his border wall. Tillis laid out a plain case for the separation of powers and pushing back against the expanding powers of the executive branch. His argument was firmly rooted in the constitution.
Now, it appears Tillis is having second thoughts. Rumblings of a primary have moved through GOP circles in North Carolina. Apparently, Rep. Mark Walker (NC-06) polled Republicans to find out the mood of that electorate. According to Walker, “They stand with the president. Our senators should as well.” Tillis may be heeding that advice to try to hold Walker off.
I doubt Tillis can stop Walker with a single vote, though. If Walker has the itch, very little will dissuade him. Politicians operate off of instinct, ambition and opportunity backed up by polling. Right now, Walker sees an opening and he doesn’t seem to be a guy who’s scared to take a risk. He got his seat by beating Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s son in a huge primary upset back in 2014. He’ll trust his gut.
The episode says a lot about where the GOP stands today, too. Twitter handles are full of people calling themselves “constitutional conservatives” who are really Trumpist minions. Tillis is right in his op-ed. The conservative position is standing against the president. Congress has ceded too much power to the executive branch, but none of that matters. In the Republican Party today, the principles of conservatism are worth about as much as the truth is to Paul Manafort’s lawyer.
I hope Tillis sticks to guns. He won’t prevent a primary with a single vote but he can sacrifice his principles. If he votes against executive overreach and ends up with a challenge from Walker, the primary will be more about the character of the GOP than just two Republicans battling for a seat. Tillis will represent the conservative movement that’s defined the party since Reagan while Walker will be the personification of Trumpists. Who better to represent them than a Baptist minister who willingly sacrifices his core values in blind allegiance to an autocratic serial philanderer who’s a pathological liar with racist tendencies? It’ll be quite a fight.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >