The Convenient Compassion of Renee Ellmers:
From Tea Party Darling to Big Business Stooge
by Jim Gillespie
In 2010, Renee Ellmers was elected to the North Carolina second congressional district seat with the help of tea party activists. She seemed okay at the time, certainly better than the seven-term relic she replaced: Bob Etheridge. Since then, however, things have gone nowhere but downhill.
After about a term and a half, Ellmers—who had come to NC by way of Detroit—revealed her true colors. She became suddenly filled with compassion for all immigrants who managed to sneak into the U.S. Writing in the Fayetteville Observer, in January of 2014, Ellmers declared:
The local leaders I met with covered a variety of industries, including housing, construction, hospitality, restaurant, research and development, high tech and agriculture. I was impressed with their candor and sense of urgency. Their views were echoed by immigrants, faith leaders and reform-minded groups in the district. They told me that their greatest fears include the threat of their families being broken apart and the inability to provide for their loved ones.
It’s funny how the aspirations of the cheap labor advocates in the first sentence so neatly and conveniently dovetail with those of the do-gooders in the third. Life can be awfully convenient at times.
Ms. Ellmers’ fit of convenient compassion did not go unrewarded. Running for what would be her third term in Congress, she was aided in the Republican primary by a group that calls itself “Americans for a Conservative Direction.” True conservatives in her district might be surprised to learn that the ACD is a subsidiary of FWD.us, which features among its billionaire backers Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. (In the support-both-sides tradition of big money politics, FWD.us also sponsors another organization—the Council for American Job Growth—which gives its money to the candidates Zuck and Bill really want to win: the liberals.)
Joining in the compassion chorus supporting Ellmers—because they just love doing good for poor folks from other lands—is the Partnership for a New American Economy, which features such worthies as Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Rupert Murdoch, and Bill Marriott. The Partnership’s director, Jeremy Robbins, has pointed to North Carolina and in particular Ellmers’ district as a key battleground. “You have a hugely powerful agriculture voice [there]. You have the Research Triangle.” He adds, as anyone who lives there can tell you, “You have a pretty decent sized undocumented immigrant population” as well. (In 2010, there were estimated to be fully 325,000 illegals in the state as a whole.)
Ms. Ellmers has mastered, in near-record time, the art of speaking out of both sides of her mouth. No, she’s not for amnesty, she insists. Yes, she is in favor of letting anyone come here who wants to and letting anyone who is already here stay. After all, it’s the compassionate thing to do and, besides, the big money boys think it’s the right thing to do, too. So what’s the problem?
When confronted with the problem—namely, that her policies will destroy the social fabric of her district, state, and country and at the same time reduce wages to third-world levels—Ellmers has on occasion made something of a jerk of herself. On Laura Ingraham’s radio program in the spring, she declared herself free of the “ignorance” of her host. Then, at a town hall meeting with her own constituents, she flatly told one he had “no damn facts.”
Where the damn facts are missing would seem to be in the attractive head of Ms. Ellmers herself. Ron Woodard of NC LISTEN, who has had the dubious pleasure of attempting to make sense of the congresswoman’s babble in a one-on-one meeting, described her as “the most misinformed and uninformed member of Congress I have ever spoken with” on the subject. “And that is saying something,” he added.
The citizens of North Carolina’s second district will most likely be stuck with their crypto-conservative rep for another couple of years. A grassroots-funded (i.e., under-funded) challenge in this spring’s primary failed, and Ms. Ellmers’ Democratic opponent is American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken, a single-issue candidate whose views—in the words of an Ellmers staffer—“more closely resemble those of San Francisco” than the second district. Mr. Aiken is likely to find himself in the also-ran category once again, and the big business stooge will get another round.