How to beat Madison Cawthorn

Published November 18, 2021

By Thomas Mills

Madison Cawthorn says he switched districts to keep another establishment Republican out of Congress. That Republican was North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore. Moore is about as traditional a North Carolina Republican as you can get—solidly conservative on both social and fiscal matters. He’s just not a raging populist attention hound like Cawthorn and his cronies, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Paul Gosar. 

The real reason Cawthorn switched districts is because the new 13th District is more Republican than the new 14th District where he lives. Moore promptly got out of the race because he knows he would have trouble defeating Cawthorn in a primary. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the GOP. 

I wish Moore had stayed in the race. The establishment needs to put up a fight and they need to start to restore some level of accountability to their party. Moore might have lost the primary but at least he could have begun to push back against the authoritarian idiocy of Cawthorn.

 Cawthorn believes that he can coast to victory in a district like NC-13. His populist rhetoric resonates with the angry GOP base and he’s raised a ton of money, protecting himself in a GOP primary. Republicans cut the district for Moore so no Democrat stands much of a chance. Trump won it by 20%. 

However, there probably is a way to beat Cawthorn. An conservative independent could give Cawthorn a run for his money, especially if that person brings some electoral experience to the race. Democrats would also probably need to stand down and give the independent candidate Democratic votes. Even with a Democrat in the race, an independent might be able to win. 

 The ideal candidate would be a current or former Republican with little tolerance for the performative hijinks of Cawthorn. They would have solid conservative credentials and bring a serious demeanor that commands respect. They would make the case about restoring accountability, making government work for the people, and putting constituent services above personal ambition. They can pledge not to caucus with the Democrats in Congress and not to vote for a Democratic House Speaker. 

The candidate would not have to face a primary. Republicans made getting on the ballot as an independent much easier, one of the few things on which I agree with them. The candidate would need to have the ability to consolidate the independent voters in the district and bring in some Democratic votes and some Republican ones. It’s worked before in other places.

I can think of several former members of the legislature and local elected officials who served as Republicans, but who don’t reflect the angry populism of Cawthorn. One of them should step up. North Carolina doesn’t need a dangerous idiot like Cawthorn representing us in Congress. Besides, conservatives need to fight for their party instead outright surrendering to the Trumpists.