Ray Nothstine: Voters, not election board, should decide on Cawthorn

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2022

By Ray Nothstine

Being giddy about the possibility of barring Madison Cawthorn’s attempt to return to Congress is not a good reason to do it.

Unfortunately, canceling somebody, often merely for speech, is an increasingly common tactic in today’s raucous political climate.

If you haven’t heard by now, a group of North Carolinians filed a lawsuit claiming Cawthorn is an insurrectionist and thus ineligible for office under section No. 3 of the 14th Amendment. They want the state Board of Elections, which may potentially do their bidding, to carry out their agenda. It’s a highly dubious partisan tactic to dreg up a clause meant more for figures like former Confederates after their armed rebellion against the U.S. government.

As constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley pointed out in a clear and straightforward piece, Cawthorn’s antics don’t come near meeting the standards of insurrection.

“The Confederacy formed a government, an army, a currency, and carried out diplomatic missions,” wrote Turley.

In his writeup, Turley condemned the actions on Jan. 6 but pointed out that the charges brought against those in the U.S. Capitol mostly amount to trespassing or sometimes less severe charges. As bad as it is, a riot does not necessarily equate to treason or an insurrection.

Cawthorn’s supposed crime is casting doubt on the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election, the Republicans, hiding and not fighting, they are trying to silence your voice,” declared Cawthorn in a speech to Donald Trump supporters outside the Capitol on January 6.

Essentially, that is the offending line in his otherwise relatively uneventful remarks that day.

Whatever one’s opinion of Cawthorn, that hardly rises to insurrection or inciting a riot. As Dallas Woodhouse has already pointed out, there’s no evidence Cawthorn has been charged with a crime or is even currently being investigated for one.

The state Board of Elections claims to have the authority to disqualify him. Yet, for what purpose? Because he’s a jerk? A naked partisan hack? Is it because of his questionable political instincts? Those are all issues voters should be deciding on and not government-appointed officials.

I’ve never met Cawthorn and have no affinity for him, but neither do I wish him any ill will. Voters in his congressional district are the ones qualified to decide his fate. After that, the House of Representatives has the authority to decide whether they want to seat Cawthorn in Congress or not.

“If voters elect a rascal who is constitutionally ineligible to serve, the people’s representatives must decide whether or not to throw him out of the House,” wrote University of Iowa Law Professor Derek T. Muller in the Wall Street Journal.

Do left-wing partisans want to go down the road of dictating by government power who is ineligible for Congress because of mere rhetoric? Do the same requirements apply for supporters of Black Lives Matter or ANTIFA riots?

One of the problems in Congress today is that many representatives being sent to Washington are only interested in building their partisan brand and not governing. Perhaps that description encapsulates Cawthorn’s style and intentions perfectly.

Still, that’s for North Carolinians to decide if that’s what they prefer in their representatives in this era. Handing it over to a so-called bipartisan board to determine his political fate is not only waving the white flag on democracy – but further opens American politics to becoming totalitarian – where crushing the opposition is all that matters anymore.

Ray Nothstine is Carolina Journal opinion editor and Second Amendment research fellow at the John Locke Foundation.

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