The perfect Republican

At the rate he’s going, Madison Cawthorn will be president one day.

Madison Cawthorn’s political origin story is that of an innocent Christian boy transformed through tragedy into a fierce freedom fighter. This tale begins with Cawthorn as a popular home-schooled teenager. He played football in a faith-based league, worked at Chick-fil-A, and was destined for a long and rewarding military career. Tragically, his path to the U.S. Naval Academy was derailed by a brutal car crash. Cawthorn, then just nineteen, was “declared dead on the scene.” But then a miracle happened. He kept the faith and fought his way back to a fulfilling life. In short order, he became an inspirational speaker, self-proclaimed CEO of a real estate investment company, and Paralympic athlete.

Cawthorn’s quasi-biblical biography captured the hearts of many in North Carolina’s 11th district, who last year elected him one of the youngest Congressmen in American history. While most political careers are assisted by mythmaking, Cawthorn’s self-spun narrative is particularly fictitious. In truth, he’s a college dropout, credibly accused sexual predator, and fan of the Third Reich who had no path to the Paralympics and was rejected by the Naval Academy. Contrary to Cawthorn’s past statements, he was not declared dead at his car’s crash site, and his real estate “business” appears to have only purchased a single foreclosed lot.

But what Cawthorn lacks in integrity he makes up for in resiliency. The determination and durability he demonstrated throughout his post-crash recovery—plus his natural born charisma—served him well during his Congressional bid. Cawthorn used these skills to convince many low-information voters that he was a soldier of some sort, then leveraged the credibility conferred by this false perception to cast his Democratic opponent, a retired Air Force Colonel named Moe Davis, as a “dishonorable” ally of terrorists. This warped reality led to a bizarre Election Day moment in which a voter essentially recognized Cawthorn as a decorated war hero. “Hey,” the voter began, “thanks for, uh, doing your service—.” Before he could finish, Cawthorn interjected: “It’s an honor to get to fight for America,” he said.

The article also points out something important: while Cawthorn is the most extravagantly dishonest of the Republican valor-thieves, Democrats do it too, unconvincingly rubbing themselves up against the “glamour” of big-money defense contractors and citizen enthusiasm for bigger, better, nastier weapons. That’s a mistake.

Democrats would do best to frame war as what it is: a deeply damaging experience for American service members, their families, and the world. In their failure to do so, the left has not only perpetuated conflict but also failed to define peace. The Pentagon has stepped into this vacuum and convinced the American people—a majority of whom want a smaller military footprint abroad—that peace is armed, dangerous, and MAD. Those who describe it otherwise, or call for the peacekeepers to put down their guns, are deemed weak-willed and anti-American.

Unwilling to challenge this consensus, Democrats continue to concoct war stories or cozy up to the military establishment in hopes of insulating themselves from criticism. Take Bernie Sanders’s support of the F-35 fighter jet being based in his hometown of Burlington, a highly controversial position that a political scientist once half-jokingly suggested to me was directed “almost at the point of a gun.”

Dulce et decorum est and all that. They really need to read beyond the title.


  1. redwood says

    Cawthorn is a skanky bit of weasel wax. I’d love to see him nailed on sexual assault charges or anything else that would make him go away. He also lied about the car accident, saying the driver “left him for dead” and ran away, when the reality is that he pulled Cawthorn from the car. The GQP is now full of these kinds of liars and con-artists. I just wish there weren’t so many gullible Americans that vote for them.

  2. Stuart Smith says

    How am I supposed to take a political commentator seriously when they refer to Democrats as “the left”? Either they are ignorant, or they are dishonest. Either way, not sure their opinion on anything related to politics should matter.

  3. raven says

    Blue Ridge Public Radio
    #NC11: Attack By Madison Cawthorn’s Schoolmates Goes Viral

    A scathing public letter signed by more than 150 of Madison Cawthorn’s former schoolmates at Patrick Henry College alleges that the Republican candidate engaged in “sexually predatory behavior,” vandalism and lying as a student and is unfit for congress or as a representative of the conservative Christian school.

    The letter, in the form of an online petition, was posted over the weekend by alumni who said they knew Cawthorn during the 2016-2017 academic year. He dropped out before the end of his second semester and didn’t return.

    Within hours of the letter’s release October 17, the number of Patrick Henry College alumni signers exploded, from 10 to 150 by midweek. Many of the signers also recounted on social media their personal experiences with Cawthorn during that period, including several who alleged that they were victims of his sexual misconduct or had learned of it from other alleged victims at the time.

    Cawthorn’s history as a college student is like the rest of his life, a disaster.
    He didn’t even make it a year, dropped out in his second semester.

    .1. His classmates at Patrick Henry despised him for a lot of reasons.
    .2. Don’t forget that Patrick Henry is a bible college.
    The bar is very low here with oogedy boogedy fundie xian right wingnuts as the student body.
    These are the people that admire Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham.

    .3. Sure Cathorn has a history and it isn’t good.
    All this was known before the election.
    This petition came out in October before the election.
    The voters in his district knew what they were voting for and didn’t care.

  4. snarkrates says

    Unfortunately this sort of stolen valor bullshit ain’t new. The last President to serve in the military was Bush I. Arguably, of the last 5 Presidents, only Obama did not dodge the draft, mainly because he was too young to be drafted. Bush II posed under a goddamned “Mission Accomplished” banner while still trying to hide his carrier landing boner under his flight suit. And Darth Cheeto…well, the only proper response to his use of the military as props is “Ewww!”
    Of all the chickenhawks behind the Iraq War, only Colin Powell had any actual military experience. General Eric Shinseki was effectively cashiered when he told the truth about required troop levels (joining William T. Sherman on the list of generals punished for good judgment and inconvenient truth telling).
    And long before Cawthorn, Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon were exaggerating their war records. Even LBJ got in on the act, and he was pretty much a chicken shit in WW II.

  5. kathleenzielinski says

    Raven, No. 3, I think that’s the most important significant point here — the voters in his district knew what they were getting and didn’t care.

    There was a time when that kind of publicity would have been a career-ender for either a Democrat or a Republican in just about any district anywhere in the country. This is not those times. When Karl Rove made a joke about people who still think truth is important, I thought he was kidding. It appears he was completely serious.

    And we can disagree on issues, but facts matter. A lot.

  6. brucegee1962 says

    Eh, never underestimate the ignorance of the average voter — particularly the average Republican voter.
    Specifically, it recently came out that around 30% of Republican voters believe the recently-passed Covid relief act was bipartisan, even though not a single Republican lawmaker voted for it.

  7. says

    @#5, kathleenzielinski:

    Yeah, just imagine if somebody tried to run for office as a Democrat after noticeably supporting GWB’s Iraq war, the PATRIOT Act, the creation of DHS and ICE (and the massive expansion of the latter), the act which made it impossible to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy, private prisons, the super-racist War On Drugs, and several decades of ever-expanding military budgets. Why, the average Democratic voter is so dedicated to the truth that they certainly would not stand for such a shifty liar! They would show such a scumbag the door right away!

    (/sarcasm, in case — like many Democrats — you can’t tell that that’s a description of Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.)

  8. PaulBC says

    If I could just click “like” on this posting, I would. Barring that, I will comment that I have always hated the Starship Troopers mentality that military service turns you into some kind of uber-citizen to be given more weight than others. It is also true that mainstream Democrats do it as much if not more than Republicans. It’s a lousy reason to elect a civilian leader.

    I had friends in college who served, including a couple who were probably surprised in the early 90s that we were switching back to real wars. I also have a nephew who was in the Air Force. I respect them as much as anyone else for their choices and their service, but I refuse to engage in the kind of military worship that has been the norm at least since people forgot about Vietnam.

  9. michaelcrichton says

    How is that holster in any way practical? Not only is it too far up to easily draw, the grip will be jammed right into his armpit if he tries to shoulder the rifle. What a dang poser.

  10. says


    Uh, did you know that he has spinal cord damage and uses a wheelchair almost anytime he has to go more than 10′? I would suspect that the unusual carrying position has everything to do with being able to propel & control his wheelchair while still carrying his rifle. He sexist and from everything I can tell someone who sexually assaults women on a fairly regular basis, but I don’t have any reason to think that he’s carrying the rifle that way for any reason other than practicality under unusual conditions.

  11. kathleenzielinski says

    Vicar, No. 7, I voted for Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, not because I’m under any illusion that either of them is actually progressive, but because in Trump the Republicans managed to find a candidate who was even worse. Someone once said that voting is like going home with someone from a singles bar at ten minutes before closing time: You concentrate on getting the least repulsive of who is still available. And in 2016 and 2020, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden were the least repulsive of the viable candidates still available on election day.

  12. numerobis says

    kathleenzielinski: the key difference is that with voting you can’t go home alone. There’s always going to be someone elected. The Vicar would prefer that person be Trump than someone less repulsive.

  13. christoph says

    @ kathleenzielinski, # 5:
    “When Karl Rove made a joke about people who still think truth is important, I thought he was kidding. It appears he was completely serious.”

    “The first casualty of war is truth.” -Aeschylus

  14. brightmoon says

    That Cawthorn is a real winner . Stupid, liar and abusive. I guess being in a wheelchair prevents him from currently being a serial rapist .

  15. squiregeek says

    It’s worth noting that this guy was rejected by the Navy before the accident.
    Also too, when I was in college I doubt that more than a couple of dozen of my classmates could have picked me out of a lineup. That over 150 of this guy’s would sign a petition rejecting him is epic.

  16. Lofty says

    Muricans clearly like voting for people who lie and cheat more than they themselves get away with.

  17. michaelcrichton says

    @crip dyke: I was referring to the pistol holster. He obviously chose it for looks rather than functionality.

  18. Paul Cowan says

    Every unlikely medical recovery is described as a “miracle” until someone is required to grow back a limb.

  19. says


    I was referring to the pistol holster. He obviously chose it for looks rather than functionality.

    Pardon me. The image is small and I looked at it without my glasses, not noting the pistol strapped to his chest.

    That said, the point remains: an armpit holster would rip clothes and chafe skin while the wearer was using a wheelchair. A hip holster would wedge the gun against the structural elements of the wheelchair and make the gun completely inaccessible.

    You can trash Cawthorn for any number of reasons, but arranging his equipment so that he can carry it while using a wheelchair isn’t exactly something for which he deserves criticism.

  20. chigau (違う) says

    I don’t think he could fire the rifle with that chest holster in place.
    But that photo is a posed photo-op, probably not meant to convey how he would dress for a gun-fight.

  21. porkypine says

    I’m a little late to the party here but I wanted to respond to the comment “Democrats do it too”. Have you ever noticed that when a politician or a media pundit brings out the “Both sides do it.” trope, it is almost always to excuse something a Republican has done or said?