A Referendum On Reality

You won't believe what these folks don't believe
Geoff Wood

So maybe Thom Tillis will win outright next week after all. New polling results indicate that, after Mark Harris and Greg Brannon had begun to close the gap in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Tillis seems likely to secure the 40 percent margin he needs to win May 6.

But if you’re inclined to think the new results display the GOP base’s grudging embrace of a candidate less nutty than his opponents, take a good look at what else the Public Policy Polling survey found:

Tillis is winning over a Republican primary electorate that across the board holds extremely conservative views on key issues:

-Only 33% of GOP primary voters believe in evolution to 58% who do not.

-Only 31% of GOP primary voters think Barack Obama was born in the United States to 52% who continue to fall into the Birther camp.

-Only 29% of GOP primary voters believe that climate change is a fact to 51% who do not.

-Only 27% of GOP primary voters think the US Education Department should continue to exist, compared to 60% who think it should be eliminated.

-Only 25% of GOP primary voters support the federal minimum wage to 57% who do not.

Tillis has had to tack pretty far to the right in order to appeal to the Republican primary electorate that holds these views, and put away his fairly weak field of opponents. It's a situation somewhat reminiscent of what Mitt Romney had to do to nail down the Presidential nomination in 2012, and a lot of the positions he took in his protracted primary contest ended up coming back to bite him in the general election. It will be interesting to see if Tillis faces a similar fate this fall because of the stances he's had to take to survive the primary.

That’s what this primary race has always been about, from the moment Harris and Brannon announced their candidacies. It’s instructive, too, for PPP to characterize those first three positions in the list—evolution and climate change are myths, and Barack Obama was not born in the United States—as “extremely conservative.” They’re not, if “conservative” means anything in an ideological sense anymore. They are, quite literally, crazy. They’re divorced from reality.

Some conservative thinkers are beginning to notice—and worry. From W. James Antle III in The American Conservative, from a column titled, “The Libertarian Right’s Fringe Problem”:

Self-described constitutional conservatives are once again in vogue inside the Republican Party, but Greg Brannon is a bit of a rarity. First, his fidelity to the founding document applies to civil liberties as well as domestic programs. Second, his is a theoretically winnable race …

Unfortunately, Brannon has also stumbled into some of the pitfalls that have undone past “liberty” candidates …

Most damning is Brannon’s solicitousness towards 9/11 truthers in a 2012 radio interview, even after the host tried to rescue him. Nothing in Brannon’s answer can be construed as an actual endorsement of core truther claims. It was mostly just mumbo-jumbo about the 9/11 Commission. But it was clear that he didn’t want to offend the caller by distancing himself from crazed conspiracy theories, even though he wasn’t running for office yet …

The North Carolina Senate race is far from over, but much will need to happen to keep it from being added to the growing list of conservative disappointments. The Republican liberty movement particularly needs candidates like Greg Brannon to win in order to take the next step.

Taking that step will require putting away the childish things.

Good luck with that. The Republican base, in North Carolina and elsewhere, feeds on “the childish things.” They need “the childish things.” That’s why Brannon—who says he decided to run for Senate after the voice of God told him to while he was running along a beach—was ever considered a serious candidate to begin with.

Whether Tillis wins next week or in a July runoff, North Carolinians ought to keep in mind not Tillis himself but the people he had to court to win—people whose heads reside in another dimension, or another century. I wish the Senate race were just about ideology or practical politics. It’s becoming a referendum on reality itself.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest