'You're On Your Own'

Tillis's 47 percent moment: 'divide and conquer' the poor and sick

“What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice in her condition that needs help and that we should help. And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, ‘You’re on your own. We may end up taking care of those babies, but we’re not going to take care of you.’ And we’ve got to start having that serious discussion. It won’t happen next year. Wrong time, ‘cause it’s going to be politically charged. One of the reasons why I may never run for another elected office is that some of these things may just get me railroaded out of town. But in 2013, I honestly believe that we have to do that.”—Thom Tillis, October 2011

“Two studies out this month say turning down the federal Medicaid expansion could cost North Carolina the lives of hundreds of low-income uninsured people per year and leave businesses on the hook for tens of millions of dollars annually in tax penalties, beginning in 2015.”—WRAL-TV report, January 2014

“Thom Tillis has a proven record of fighting against Obamacare. Tillis stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold. It’s not happening in North Carolina, and it’s because of Thom Tillis.”—Tillis campaign ad, April 2014

And that’s how you divide and conquer. You’re on your own. For your own good.

UPDATE: Brian Beutler at the New Republic nicely summarizes why the video, released three years ago, matters more now in light of what Tillis did last year:

Tillis isn’t wearing racial blinders. He’s very clear-eyed about what he’s doing. His statement is an implicit admission that the road to building majority support for a conservative policy agenda runs through the exploitation of white racial resentment. Making a case out of “these people” who have many “babies” to foster and deepen their own dependence on government.

When these remarks were first unearthed back in 2011, Tillis told the Charlotte Observer that “divide and conquer” was a “poor choice of words” but stood by his other remarks, including the suggestion that North Carolina consider drug-testing people on public assistance.

Now that he’s a U.S. Senate candidate, there’s a decent chance that Republicans outside of North Carolina will have to take a position on his comments. Perhaps they’ll condemn them. But there’s next to no chance that they or other conservatives will admit that this kind of thinking … represents anything other than an aberration. That would require them to cast aside the blinders. The problem is, his remarks were reported on at the time. And the national party still backed him.