Main Stream Media coverage of the Mostly Peaceful Save America / Stop The Steal march at the U.S. Capitol has focused on the “domestic terror” that led to Trump's second impeachment [Trump Impeached Again, by John Eligon and Thomas Kaplan, The New York Times, January 13, 2020]. But something unnoticed happened on the stage where President Trump allegedly incited “insurrection”—a little-known, newly-elected congressman from North Carolina, Madison Cawthorn, had a turn at the mic. He is touted as “new face” of the post-Trump GOP, younger, and more reasonable, without all the Trumpist baggage. And, to his credit, he didn’t vote to impeach Trump. But he’s another GOP Establishment stooge who loves nothing better than proving his anti-racist, pro-immigration bona fides.
Just 25 years old, Cawthorn—paralyzed waist-down in a terrible 2014 car wreck—also spoke at the Republican National Convention in August. On January 6, he enjoyed that coveted speaking slot after Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. His speech appears to have been memory-holed, as it has proven nearly impossible to find online except for his introduction, which Cawthorn posted on Twitter.
American Patriotism will never be silenced! Honored to speak out in defense of the Constitution! pic.twitter.com/bS05aU4XDb— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) January 6, 2021
I was there, however, so I can report this: Cawthorn discussed the need for a new Republican Party, with new faces and new ideas, presumably just like his. But that’s not as important as what he said before…and after.
Throughout his short career, Cawthorn has played both sides against the middle. While trying to rile up Trump’s base, he also wants favorable media coverage. Thus, Cawthorn has offered plenty of red meat about the election, Stop the Steal, and the Trump presidency, even as he apologizes when called out for a “controversial” claim.
Consider what happened when the neocon Bulwark went after him. Just about 10 days before the election, the NeverTrump site unearthed some language on Cawthorn’s campaign website that was, Bulwark types would say, deeply disturbing [Madison Cawthorn’s Racist Website, by Tim Miller, October 22, 2020]. The language on the website was clunky, but that aside, Cawthorn landed in very hot water.
“He quit his academia job in Boston to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office,” Cawthorn’s site said of Democrat Rep. Moe Davis. When The Bulwark went after him, Cawthorn said the website had a “syntax error” and that his “intended meaning was, and is, to condemn left-wing identity politics that is dangerous and divisive.”
But he also blew the usual neocon dog whistle to let everyone know he wasn’t that kind of Republican. He is an “MLK” Republican:
I have condemned racism and identity politics throughout my campaign including during my convention speech when I highlighted MLK's vision for equality.
He even worried that someone might think he criticized Cory Booker. Well, we can’t have anyone thinking that!
Cawthorn also retreated from a triumphant “Cry more, lib” tweet after he beat Davis. In late December, he apologized
“Do you wish you could take it back?” a CNN reporter asked.
“Oh, absolutely,” he said, even though the sentiment—which piggybacked on Trump’s success with such off-the-cuff tweets—got him elected. Even worse, he apologized while nonsensically claiming the tweet was a statement against cancel culture. [GOP Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn says he 'absolutely' would take back mocking liberals in post-election tweet, CNN, by Devan Cole, December 31, 2020].
Cawthorn has said In many interviews that he is the “new face” of the Republican Party, who will, at a mere 25 years old, bestow upon the world a new GOP.
Yet he made the party sound awfully old. It was “the party of Lincoln,” and beyond that, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. This “new” Republican Party “has a proud history of leading the charge on the big issues of our times, including issues the modern Left feels like they own.”
Thus must the “new” Grand Old Party address “unjust racial bias.” Americans, he wrote, have a “long way to go” to defeat that national scourge, he wrote.
Our party ought not to be ashamed of its heritage nor be afraid of open debate and challenging the “woke” left. On race, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is right and wise to remind conservatives that unjust racial bias is real and persistent. As Scott, who is black, notes, he knows what it’s like to be pulled over to be stopped by security in the Capitol because of the color of his skin. We’ve come a long way, but Scott is right to remind Republicans that we have a long way to go.
That sounds like something Cory Booker might say!
Cawthorn offered a litany of reasons why the Republican Party was once good. That would mean, presumably, the old Republican Party, but anyway, he included a throwaway line to suggest that the party should be pro-immigration. The GOP is the party of “self-determination,” after all. That’s why immigrants come to America:
We are the party of liberty and self-determination, the same self-determination that millions of immigrants possess as they continue to seek our shores and our shining city on a hill. We are the party that defeated imperialism, fascism, and Marxism, both on the battlefield and in the hearts and minds of generations of Americans. We are the party of innovation that helped create a superpower, soar to the moon, cure countless diseases, and will cure yet another deadly disease in the months to come.
We also must be the party of youth that can win the hearts and minds of young patriots with clear, compelling, and common-sense policies that put people first and politics second. This is the New Republican Party. This is the New Town Square. We were created for such a time as this.
Cawthorn promoted the Stop The Steal rally on social media.
Stop the steal isn’t just about this election. Stopping the steal means stopping the theft of this American Dream.— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) January 1, 2021
Our nation risks being robbed of its identity by a gang of left wing elites, we must prevent them from succeeding. Join me, and stand on the right side of history. pic.twitter.com/w5vMHjf9aS
“I’m fighting a battle for our Constitution on the house floor with other patriots,” he tweeted. The battle is on the house floor, not in the streets of D.C.”
We must let Congress work and uphold law and order. We are the party that backs the blue. I ask you to back the blue now and let the objections continue in accordance with the constitution.
He went on, despite his role at the podium:
I also unequivocally denounced the violence that took place in our nation’s capital, it wasn’t patriotism it was thuggery.
Last night, I spoke out in defense of our Constitution and a fair electoral process. I also unequivocally denounced the violence that took place in our nation's capitol, it wasn't patriotism it was thuggery.— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) January 7, 2021
We are all Americans. What unites us is greater than what divides us.
In an interview after the Capitol siege, Cawthorn even bragged that he was armed and ready to draw against the very crowd he’d addressed:
We were starting to be evacuated and the evacuation route is down stairs. Working with Capitol police, we figured out a way how we could make that more inclusive of the members who have disability problems. I’ve got to hand it to fellow North Carolina congressmen Ted Budd and Richard Hudson. They really helped me. They got me down some steps. They moved a lot of the furniture that was used to barricade different doors so I could get through.
But because I had to take another route, we didn’t have our Capitol police escort so there were multiple times we needed to change the route we were taking just to be safe. Fortunately, I was armed [There's no explanation of why this was legal] so we would have been able to protect ourselves.”
We stayed hunkered down at another member's office but then I opened the blinds—and not to make a pop culture reference—I felt like I was watching Lord of the Rings when the orcs were taking over the last stronghold of man. Just thousands of people literally climbing on the Capitol, literally climbing on our monuments to democracy. It was sad, that that's what’ve resorted to in this country. I instantly wanted to call it out and just say, “Hey, I'm literally fighting this battle on the House floor. What are you doing? You're destroying our movement.” Just as much as I called out Black Lives Matter protesters in the summer, I’m very happy to call out these protesters. It was wrong and it shouldn't happen.
[Cawthorn: mob that breached capitol ‘disgusting and pathetic,’ by Corey Vaillancourt, Smoky Mountain News, January 7, 2020 / errors in the original text].
Remember now, those remarks followed this tweet two days before the fatal confrontation:
January 6th is fast approaching, the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few. Get ready, the fate of a nation rests on our shoulders, yours and mine. Let’s show Washington that our backbones are made of steel and titanium. It’s time to fight.
January 6th is fast approaching, the future of this Republic hinges on the actions of a solitary few.— Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) January 4, 2021
Get ready, the fate of a nation rests on our shoulders, yours and mine. Let’s show Washington that our backbones are made of steel and titanium.
It’s time to fight.
Aside from throwing his own supporters under the bus, Cawthorn also dumped Trump.
“I do believe that saying we needed to march down to the Capitol was a mistake on behalf of the president,” he told ABC13 News “Any of my supporters who are thinking about trying to take democracy in their own hands and storm the Capitol again, I have to say they do not support the same type of politics I support” [‘I don’t feel I had any responsibility for them attacking the Capitol,’ Cawthorn says, by Kimberly King, January 7, 2020].
Cawthorn was sworn on January 3. But by January 6, he had already turned on the people who voted for him, along with those who promoted him and shared a stage with him.
Cawthorn can’t have it both ways. Voters can’t permit him to speak as if he supports Trump’s America First agenda even as he offers lip service and more for the Ruling Class Narrative.
His MAGA voters need to know the truth: He’s a fair-weather friend.
Rosa Luxemburg [Email her] is a philosopher who supports political dissidents and freedom of speech for all.