You may have heard of Madison Cawthorn, 26, the man who currently “represents” those who live in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, which includes me. Our district is not very diverse (86% white) and not overly educated (about 25% have a college degree vs. 35% nationally). Consequently, people like Mark Meadows (you may have heard of him too) and Madison Cawthorn typically have a smooth ride to Congress from these parts.
But this election year, our district’s borders have been redrawn, which — combined with Cawthorn’s well-publicized travails — has attracted a number of challengers for his seat. That means a Republican primary looms, with Cawthorn trying to fend off his main rival, State Senator and NRA member Chuck Edwards. Edwards, owner of several McDonalds in the area, is the self-proclaimed champion of “mountain values” which in our mountains implies opposition to “open borders” (read Hispanic immigration), “liberal energy and climate change experiments” and, of course, Critical Race Theory.
Though Cawthorn leads in the polls, Edwards’ challenge has led Cawthorn to try to induce amnesia in mountain voters. He wants us to forget: his support for the January 6 rioters; his disdain for Ukraine’s “thug” president; his attempt to board a plane with a loaded gun in his carry-on; his driving with a revoked license, twice; his alleged invitation to orgies in the capital; his twisting the stories of the car crash that crippled him and his rejection by the Naval Academy. You can look it all up — the internet remembers even if voters forget.
Cawthorn’s amnesia strategy involves something I don’t recall him doing explicitly in his 2020 campaign, that is, using his handicapped status to pander to voters. While Cawthorn did use his car crash as a false excuse for not attending Naval Academy, that seemed more like lying than sympathy-seeking. But one look at this Cawthorn campaign sign installed on the median of US 25/70 near Weaverville shows that he has now gone full-tilt pander:
Cawthorn’s new primary campaign symbol is not a flag — or a cracked Capitol dome — but a white man in a wheelchair. Who could vote against “Ironside” Cawthorn, the white man in the wheelchair?
Surely, a white man in a wheelchair had to surmount many more life-challenges than, say, an ordinary Joe (or Chuck in this case) who went from flipping burgers to owning his own chain of McDonalds. At least that’s the message I think Cawthorn wants to sell us here.
I hope Cawthorn does win the Republican primary, as I believe that a Democrat would fare better against him than against other Republicans in November. My premise is, Cawthorn will lose more votes due to the wing-nut factor than he stands to gain as a Trump suck-up or as a pitiful — but not pitied — young man.
On the other hand, one should never underestimate the power of mountain values in the little state I live in.