Donald Trump is in the state today to rally his troops. He’ll be in Greenville in the heart of eastern North Carolina for a Make America Great rally. Senator Thom Tillis and NC Congressman Mark Meadows, head of the Freedom Caucus, will be by his side

On the day before he’s scheduled to arrive in North Carolina, Tillis defended Trump saying, “No, I don’t think he’s a racist, and no, I don’t think he’s a xenophobe. He’s got a mom and a wife who are immigrants.” It was also the day the US House condemned Trump for making racist tweets. Anybody who grew up in the South either knows Trump’s tweets are racist or they’re the people who’ve spent their lives denying racism exists. 

Trump told four freshmen Congresswomen, all of whom are brown-skinned, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the four were born in the US and one came here when she was ten years old. Telling black people who are descendants of slaves to “Go back to Africa” is a well-worn racist trope in the South. Given his history, denying Trump’s racism is following the Orwellian command, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.”

Thom Tillis is a sad little man who cares too much about his power and position. He’s debased himself to earn Trump’s support. After writing an op-ed opposing the president’s emergency declaration to secure money for his wall, Tillis folded and voted for the measure after Trumpists threatened him with a primary. A few months later, Trump endorsed him. Now, he’s willing to deny blatant racism to ensure he doesn’t lose that support. I want a senator with a little more sense of pride and a better set of values. 

Trump is betting that racism is good politics and Tillis is clearly willing to take that bet. Trump and the new populist GOP believe that white America hasn’t evolved that much in the 55 years since the Civil Rights Act. Jesse Helms held a US Senate in North Carolina seat for thirty of those years by exploiting racism. Trump thinks he can use the same strategy to motivate his base. 

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