Why did we elect Thom Tillis?

Published January 26, 2023

By Tom Campbell

Our Senior Senator, Thom Tillis, has a target on his back. Angry, disillusioned partisans are calling him a traitor, a betrayer. Curiously enough, those name callers aren’t Democrats, as might be expected, but Republicans – members of his own party!
Why so angry? They are calling Senator Tillis a RINO, Republican in Name Only, because he doesn’t go along with everything the far right espouses. If you won’t quote scripture and verse on demand you can’t be in their club. You have obviously deserted the Grand Old Party.
Make no mistake. Thom Tillis is a Republican, a conservative Republican, and not for one minute should we believe he will forsake his bedrock beliefs. But neither is Thom a “go-along to get-along” guy. A former business consultant, Tillis became House Speaker in 2012 and immediately demonstrated he knew how to make the trains run in our legislature. Never the flashy, back-slapping pol, Tillis eschewed the klieg lights in order to work more effectively. It was no secret he was a Republican and made no apologies for it. As Speaker, Thom was adept at knowing the pulse of his Republican caucus and counting votes with the best of them. He knew what he could and couldn’t get passed on the NC House floor and wouldn’t allow a floor vote if he wasn’t sure about its outcome. He is respected as one of the best House Speakers we’ve had in recent years, even by many Democrats. 
In his first term in the U.S. Senate, it took Tillis a while to find his footing and voice. He took some controversial stands, specifically opposing President Trump about declaring a national emergency so he could build a wall along the border. Later he reversed his position after strong opposition and vitriol from Republicans. I believe this episode was a moment of truth for the freshman Senator. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I think this was the moment Thom Tillis realized he didn’t have to be just a voice for the Right but was sent to Washington to voice what he thought was right.
Yes, Tillis’ voting record will show he supported Trump and voted the Republican way on a high percentage of votes. He certainly followed the party line enough to have earned his bona fides as a party loyalist. If anything, the stinging criticism from the far-right wing of his tribe should be a badge of honor, not shame.
The Senator believed that immigration demanded more than just a slogan to build a wall, so he joined forces with Democrats and other Republicans to find a solution for those wanting to enter our country, crafting a resolution that ultimately failed in the dying moments of 2022. But in this failure Thom Tillis earned a large measure of respect among leaders in both parties. They recognized a new leader was emerging, discovering that Tillis is straight forward, tells his truth, isn’t a grandstander seeking media attention or favor. He’s pretty much of a “what you see is what you get” kinda guy.
Over the past year Senator Tillis has moved from the back bench into becoming a leader, a conciliator and mediator, willing to reach across the aisle for honest, civil discussion, finding agreement where possible and seeking compromise to pass legislation on issues like immigration, same-sex marriage and guns. And don’t be surprised to hear his name among those finding a consensus position for passing the budget and dealing with the debt ceiling debate.

So why did we elect Thom Tillis? For that matter, why do we elect anyone to public office? I am convinced there are some (I hope very few) who vote for someone, hoping they will get elected and go burn the place down, figuratively and literally. Others perhaps cast their ballots in hopes that the individual will further gum up the already slow-moving wheels of government, believing the less done is better. But I believe the majority of us vote for a person because we hope he or she will play a part in actually getting things done for the betterment of all. Isn’t that why we have a representative government in the first place?
It is apparent that our Senator, in his quiet, respectful and even-tempered way, is morphing from politician to statesman.
Stay on course, Senator. You are making a difference.