Alright, I Was Totally Wrong About Madison Cawthorn

Welp, it looks like I got it wrong about Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC).

North Carolina voters decided they no longer wanted him to represent their district and have chosen state Sen. Chuck Edwards to replace him. Amid multiple so-called scandals that emerged showing Cawthorn in a negative light, I predicted he would likely survive a primary attempt. About a week later, when even more embarrassing facts about his past came to light, I surmised that I might have been wrong about the lawmaker’s safety, but still believed he would make it through.

Now, I’m stuffed after having eaten several helpings of crow.

It’s not so bad with a little Tabasco.

Cawthorn lost his primary race. Apparently, the barrage of negative press did its work and motivated his constituents to put someone else in his seat.

It’s not hard to understand why. Even when I predicted he would remain in his seat, I knew there was a distinct possibility that he would be sent packing. The accusations of sexual impropriety that surfaced last year were not great – but they alone would not have been enough to tank his time in office. Even when it was revealed he had been stopped trying to go through airport security with a loaded firearm twice, I figured it would still be easy to forgive. It wasn’t until I saw video footage of him naked humping a bed with his second cousin in it that I started to have doubts.

The reality is that it was abundantly obvious these revelations were retaliation for Cawthorn’s decision to spill the beans about drunken, cocaine-filled orgies taking place on Capitol Hill. The soon-to-be-former lawmaker had the temerity to go on a podcast and talk about being invited to these salacious gatherings. While his remarks were 100 percent believable, it was a bad idea politically. I believed that since anyone could see this was a political hit job as revenge for exposing what happens in D.C., his constituents would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I was wrong.

However, even when I had doubts about his ability to survive a primary challenge, it wasn’t just because of his naked rompings with his cousin. It was because of a story detailing how individuals who previously campaigned for him were supporting other candidates in the elections. Their reasons for turning on him didn’t have as much to do with his shenanigans as with the perception that he was not doing his job. They complained that he was more focused on hobnobbing with the elite and trying to become a political celebrity than actually serving his constituents. I believed that if he was going to lose, this would be the reason why. I suspect I got that right.

Some believe that it was the political hit job that did Cawthorn in. The Washington Examiner’s Tiana Lowe suggested the reason he lost was that “the Republican Party establishment decided to knife Cawthorn only because of his audacity to turn on the ‘swamp.’” She noted that “the confluence of Cawthorn’s unserious theatrics and MAGA cosplaying with his millennial mishaps made his demise delectable to many but most saliently his own party’s bosses.”

Lowe is right on both counts. But in the end, I believe it was her second point that was most responsible for Cawthorn’s downfall. At the end of the day, people are willing to tolerate a certain level of tomfoolery if they believe their representative is in Congress fighting for them. This is especially true in the post-Trump era, where the base is eagerly seeking people willing to fight in Trumplike fashion while still pushing conservative policy. As long as people perceive that the person for whom they voted is doing their best to serve their interests, it won’t matter if they once wore a dress and bra. Unfortunately for Cawthorn, it appears he wasn’t doing any of these things or at least appearing to do them. Eventually, he became nothing more than an embarrassment to his district.

However, many have concluded that the result of this primary election is likely for the best – for all parties involved. My colleague Bonchie said it perfectly:

In the end, I think this is for the best. Cawthorn needs personal help, and simply being a Trump supporter is not enough to ignore his issues. Though I’ve defended him from some of the attacks he’s faced lately, in the end, my patience for bad candidates is thin in an election year this big. Cawthorn had his chance and didn’t deliver.

It is also worth noting that this is not necessarily the end of Cawthorn’s career. He is only 26-years-old. He has a lot of time ahead of him. It won’t take much to rehabilitate his image and become a serious leader. All he needs is time to mature and to understand what it takes to be a government official. If and when he decides to seek office again, his previous foibles will not be as effective a weapon against him since he has already been punished for them. But he will definitely need to present a different person from the one seen in those videos. Otherwise, nobody will have a reason to care about Cawthorn 2.0.


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