Brenda Walker

North Carolina GOP Senate Candidate Thom Tillis Marginalizes Minority Communities

In an interview recorded in September 2012, North Carolina Speaker of the House and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis compared the growing population of African Americans and Latinos to a stagnant “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States.”

In an interview highlighted by Talking Points Memo, which first spotted the 2012 interview, a spokesman for Tillis claimed that “traditional North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations.”

If you listen to the full context of Tillis’ remarks, however, it is clear that he was referring to the “traditional population” as a group distinct from the “Latino population” and the “African American population.”

Right Wing Watch points out that “traditional population” and “traditional Americans” are frequently used by anti-immigrant extremists as euphemisms for “white population.” For instance, in The Social Contract, a journal founded by an influential anti-immigrant leader, the term is used in a 2012 essay by Brenda Walker when she says, “Traditional Americans are assailed by affirmative action and benefits for illegal aliens, which are not available to citizens.”

In speaking of the “traditional population,” Tillis stands alongside people like William Gheen, founder of anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who said that immigration reform would create a situation in which “traditional Americans, like those who that have been here for hundreds of years in descendancy, will no longer govern our own nation.”

It is true that North Carolina’s African American, Latino, and Asian American populations are growing faster than its white population. For instance, the Latino population in North Carolina grew by 111.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, increasing from 4.7 percent of the population to 8.4 percent. Yet Tillis has consistently worked to marginalize Latinos, by cutting spending on education, opposing healthcare reform, and supporting a restrictive voter identification law ironically called “VIVA.” That’s why People for the American Way is working in North Carolina this year to make sure Latino voters know the threat posed by Tillis’ extreme agenda.

Last year PFAW’s Spanish-language advertising helped spur turnout among Latinos in Virginia’s gubernatorial elections, and did the same in many 2012 battleground contests. As we look to the 2014 elections, Tillis’ actions and statements marginalizing the Latino community will represent a real challenge to his standing in an increasingly powerful voting bloc.

PFAW

Tillis Borrowed 'Traditional Population' Phrase From Anti-Immigrant Extremists

TPM has dug up a 2012 interview in which North Carolina House Speaker and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis contrasts the growing black and Latino populations with the more stagnant “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States.” (The exchange starts about 2:45 into this video.)

Tills made the remarks while discussing the need for the Republican Party to reach out to and appeal to non-white voters — but the phrase “traditional population” as a euphemism for white Americans was lifted right from the racist, anti-immigrant fringe.

The Social Contract, the journal founded by anti-immigrant movement godfather John Tanton frequently uses the phrasetraditional Americans” to mean non-immigrants, and specifically white non-immigrants. One example, from an essay by Brenda Walker in the Fall 2012 issue: “The idea of diversity has been used like a club, to force obedience to the utopian multicultural state, as traditional Americans are assailed by affirmative action and benefits for illegal aliens, which are not available to citizens.”

The white nationalist website VDARE is also known to use the formulation. The late white supremacist writer Sam Francis, who was a contributor to VDARE, has also used the phrase.

The phrase is also a favorite of William Gheen, the leader of the anti-immigrant hate group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who warned earlier this year that immigration reform would “lead to a situation where traditional Americans, like those that have been here for hundreds of years in descendancy, will no longer govern our own nation.”

Eagle Forum, the group founded by Phyllis Schlafly, hinted at the same idea when it lamented that “non-whites, non-Christians, and non-marrieds vote Democrat out of group identifications. That is, they see it as being in their group interests to tear down traditional American culture.”

Famously, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly made the same connection when he lamented that changing demographics mean "it’s not traditional America anymore.” Pat Buchanan’s 2009 column, “Traditional Americans Are Losing Their Nation,” got at the same point.

Even if Tillis meant what he said about reaching out to black and Latino voters, his use of the phrase “traditional Americans” as a euphemism for white people shows that he has a long way to go.

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