Phil Berger and Thom Tillis represent, collectively, everything that makes the Republican party repellant. In separate ways, each evinces the greed and insensitivity that intertwine at the core of their party’s character. The funny thing is that they seem to recognize it in each other, and if Berger runs we’re about to watch an exposition of Republican perfidy by Republicans themselves.

Whatever his private demeanor, in public Berger is a country thug. Like Jesse Helms, he loves to puff out his chest and roar about “death penalty opponents…who will say anything to help North Carolina’s most heinous criminals leave death row,” and  how “liberal elitists…will fight…to take the fruits of your labor and give it to someone else.” Also, is it just me or does he seem to derive special pleasure from belittling women? Maybe it’s just a coincidence–maybe he’d have called Walter Dalton a progressive pipsqueak–but he appeared to relish dismissing Bev Perdue’s plans as lacking a manly “good sense” and saying the frail Hagan “has blindly followed” her male president.

If Berger embodies the nastiest of rural conservatism, Tillis represents the ugliest aspects of the urban Right. Put bluntly, he often appears as a soulless corporate predator. Unlike Pat McCrory, Tilis is an authentic business success. Yet his nebulous profession only accentuates the hollowness of his persona. Moreover, he likes greasing the palms of his big-finance friends and maneuvers with the cunning of a corporate dealmaker.

Like a well coiffed squirrel, the graying Tillis flits out of the way of Berger’s bright red tractor trailer. Expect Tillis to slice and dice Berger like a master negotiator. Interestingly, Hagan may directly benefit from their conflict. As Berger shows Tillis to be everything rural folk distrust–empty, unprincipled, basically secular–she might gain support from those who respect pro-military leaders. And it almost goes without saying that bearded Berger’s female support will weaken further.

So get out the popcorn, readers. You’ll need a Rosetta Stone, too, to decipher the code in which Tillis will savage rural reaction. Meantime, Berger will summon back the anti-metropolitan cries of his Dix Park tantrum. His bellows will echo the pseudo-populist tones of a Bush rally, such as “[I]t’s a sad day for our state when leaders entrusted to protect the best interests of all North Carolinians give a valuable state asset to a chosen few.” Triangle resident though I am, I can’t wait for more of this bile.

Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.

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