TUCKER: Time to double down on Trump and Tillis 

In this March 2, 2020 file photo, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., speaks during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Charlotte, N.C. Tillis is calibrating his ties to Trump as he tries to find the right path for reelection in a closely divided state. (AP Photo | Mike McCarn, File)

It’s time for North Carolina conservatives to double down on two previous bets: Donald Trump and Thom Tillis. 

In 2016, no one was really sure what Trump’s principles were — or if he had any principles. There was real concern among conservatives that, if elected, he would not govern as a conservative. In addition to his abrasive personality, he showed a striking inability to articulate a cohesive conservative world view.  

Indeed, for many of us in 2016, the only way to vote for Trump with any enthusiasm was to vote against Hillary Clinton. That’s what we did. We placed a bet that Trump would somehow govern as a conservative while at least knowing that, whatever his principles turned out to be, he would be better than Hillary. 

That bet has paid off big time. As Fred Barnes wrote recently in the Washington Examiner, “When Donald Trump became president, he was a mystery man… but Trump’s effort to transform himself into an unmistakable conservative has been impressive.”  

The litany of Trump administration accomplishments is long and reassuring. His judicial appointments have been heartwarming to any conservative. Withdrawals from the Paris environmental accord and from the Iran agreement were bold and decisive. Previous administrations — both Republican as well as Democratic — had timidly avoided the relocation of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  

President Trump has not wavered in his opposition to abortion and is the only president to attend the annual anti-abortion rally at the U. S. Capitol. His reduction of taxes and business regulation produced a dynamic economy which dramatically raised all boats. 

With the significant, glaring exception of fiscal restraint, Trump has consistently implemented conservative principles. The ballooning of the federal debt under Trump exposes the truth that, alas, he is a big-government conservative. While he gave lip service in 2016 to balancing the federal budget, his actions leave much to be desired. Conservatives can only hope that he will show more fiscal restraint in his second term. However, we can take comfort in the knowledge that a second Trump term will undoubtedly spend far less than a Biden administration. 

The stakes are far too high for conservatives to hold back. 

As for Thom Tillis, North Carolina conservatives gladly supported Tillis in his 2014 campaign against incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. Tillis ran on a thoroughly conservative platform. He rightly attacked Hagan for her support of the Democratic agenda and promised to reign in “out of control federal spending.” As examples, he blasted Hagan’s support of the bloated Farm Bill and the Export Import Bank. Unfortunately, Tillis’ record as a conservative has fallen short of his 2014 rhetoric. 

During the Tillis Senate term, 2014-2020, federal spending has exploded, and he has been part of the problem. Hypocritically, he voted for renewal of the Farm Bill and the Export Import Bank. He recently blasted the Republican Senate for not passing additional COVID-relief spending. Whenever fiscally conservative Republicans (e.g., Sens. Paul, Cruz, Toomey, Cotton, et. al.) have sought to curtail spending, Tillis was not to be found.  

On the positive side, Sen. Tillis has consistently voted pro-life and has generally supported Trump’s judicial appointments. On immigration, he disappointingly waffled on construction of the wall. The conservative rankings by FreedomWorks, Club for Growth and Heritage Foundation generally rank Sen. Tillis around 50% — or half-a-conservative. For conservatives, Sen. Tillis has been a disappointment, but there should be no doubt that half a conservative in Tillis is far better than a zero conservative in Cal Cunningham, who will follow Schumer and the Squad in their march towards socialism.  

As we are all reminded daily in the press, North Carolina is ground zero in the 2020 election fight, both for the presidency and for control of the Senate. Trump cannot possibly win this election without carrying North Carolina. Similarly, the loss of the Tillis seat to the Democrats could well mean a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.  

The stakes are far too high for conservatives to hold back. Trump and Tillis might not be everything we’d like to see in a conservative candidate but ponder the alternative.  

We’ve got to double down on our previous bets. 

Garland S. Tucker III, retired Founder/CEO, Triangle Capital Corporation and author of The High Tide of American Conservatism: the 1924 Election and Conservative Heroes: Fourteen Leaders Who Shaped America- Jefferson to Reagan. He was a candidate for US Senate in the 2020 primary against Sen. Tillis.