Other voices: Cawthorn’s reckless, dangerous words

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.-11, took center stage recently — and made our state look bad.

This is not the kind of national attention we appreciate.

Cawthorn is a freshman legislator whose inexperience shows. He’s revealed a penchant for getting historical facts wrong, despite presenting himself as a history buff. He’s claimed honors he never received and accomplishments he never achieved. Over 160 students who attended a Christian college with him signed a letter last October claiming that he was a little too handsy with women (not necessarily a problem for Trump fans). During the flooding that crippled Haywood County a couple of weeks ago, rather than gather resources to help, he was busy tweeting about finishing “the wall.” Shades of Cancun.

But what the most drew attention was a speech he gave at a Macon County GOP gathering, where he repeated that the 2020 election was rigged and said, “If our election systems continue to be rigged, continue to be stolen, it’s going to lead to one place and that’s bloodshed.”

He added: “As much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there’s nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.”

When asked when he was going to “call us to Washington again” — what? — he said, “That — we are actively working on that one.”

He said a lot more, but this is enough crazy for one editorial.

It’s also enough, we hope, for the FBI and DOJ to sit up and pay attention.

Maybe this is nothing more than a politician puffing out his chest; he wouldn’t be the first to do so.

But when asked about his statements, a Cawthorn spokesperson said that he was “CLEARLY advocating for violence not to occur over election integrity questions.”

To which we say, come on. You don’t use that kind of language about something you don’t intend to do. It’s highly irresponsible and dangerous.

Cawthorn’s bluster might still be dismissed if it were occurring in a vacuum. But following the Jan. 6 insurrection, we’ve got to take invocations to violence seriously. Especially since they’re showing up in other places.

In Pennsylvania, where COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing, Steve Lynch, an aspiring Republican politician, threatened last week to take 20 men and physically remove the Northampton County school board because of mask mandates.

For years we listened to conservatives complain about “unelected judges” and “unelected bureaucrats.” Now, the “elected” part doesn’t seem to matter. We’re just a few right-wing podcasts and a week away from Republicans declaring that every sitting Democrat is illegitimate.

Think we’re kidding?

In the same speech in which Cawthorn claimed that Trump won, he said that Dan Forest defeated Gov. Roy Cooper in 2020.

This, despite election results that showed Cooper, a popular incumbent, in a state with a majority of registered Democrats, with a 250,000-vote margin of victory.

Maybe Cawthorn should tell us which Democrat(s) did win legitimately.

We know the rebuttals: Yes, both Hillary Clinton and Georgia’s Stacey Abrams expressed sour grapes over the elections they lost. But neither encouraged mobs to overthrow the results. Abrams just went out and registered hundreds of thousands of new voters.

And, yes, Black Lives Matter and antifa, shorthand for anti-fascists, have been involved in incidents of violence — though BLM violence, especially, has been greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes.

All political violence is deplorable. But neither BLM nor antifa has tried to violently overthrow an election or urged their followers to prepare to do so.

For that, you apparently need a steady diet of conservative misinformation and a Big Lie.

We know there are multitudes of more sober Republicans who regret to see this trend in their own party. We’d like to think they’ll speak up, letting it be known that these loose cannons don’t represent them — and that “mob rule” doesn’t mean the voters whose candidate won the election, but those who would take the law into their own hands to overturn the election. And that no disappointing election outcome justifies violence, no matter how “patriotic” the perpetrator.

We’re waiting …

— Winston-Salem Journal