Madison Cawthorn’s Bittersweet Loss (and how can I make it about myself?)

I’d forgotten that the North Carolina primaries were called this week, so went to sleep on Tuesday night circa 8 PM none the wiser, and woke up on Wednesday to a barrage of texts (fine, 3) telling me that my mortal nemesis, David Madison Cawthorn be out of a job come 2023. 

I debated having a drink to celebrate—which was really debating posting a 6:30 AM White Claw on Instagram for my “and-he’s-out” post (aka a desperate bid for likes)—but instead just enjoyed reading all the articles and tweets documenting and reflecting on Cawthorn’s meteoric rise, and very swift fall, before moving onto reading more about the upcoming Republican challenger Chuck Edwards, and becoming increasingly bummed as the morning went on that though Cawthorn will be gone, there’s a very good chance we’ll be stuck with the type of Republican who’s much more nefarious than Cawthorn, one that’s competent enough to roll the country backward without courting the spotlight. 

This shift in moods is pretty symbolic of how I feel about Cawthorn’s loss. On the one hand, I’m thrilled, but the loss also feels bittersweet. There are two prongs to this Cawthorn-tinged ennui. 

  1. The reasons Cawthorn eventually went down are pretty disheartening. I’m proud of myself for being a bit ahead of the curve, documenting Cawthorn’s misdeeds, starting from before the election with this post about his missed opportunities when it comes to disability awareness, then moving into a more public forum, documenting how he prioritizes his brand above Western North Carolina, his dangerous rhetoric, the emptiness of his “fake news” decries, his disregard for Veteran issues, and the way his terrible marketing efforts highlight his ambivalence towards his job, all viable reasons a candidate should be interrogated and voted out of office. However, what seemingly did the trick was clickbait: the cocaine and orgies, see-through lingerie, and humping his “cousin” naked, all hypocritical behavior, obviously, by a candidate who touts and pushes his “Christian” values, but in my eyes, if someone can do their job well, I don’t care how many orgies they attend in their off time. I think it’s troubling that his sexual assault allegations, lies about his origins, and insurrection speech weren’t what turned the tide. It speaks volumes about what this country prioritizes and how much work there’s still left to do. 
  2. Who am I locally if not the guy who writes about Madison Cawthorn? I say this jokingly—I hope that’s obvious—but also, I think there’s a kernel of truth there? Now, did I want Cawthorn to win to continue writing op-eds that got me positive attention, positive public recognition (fine, 3 instances of that too), and the opportunity to strengthen my personal brand? Not at all, I’m happy he’s out, but at the same time, I had mapped out the Cawthorn-related topics I wanted to cover in future pieces and leverage for potential bylines in more prominent publications. What do I write about now? Parks and recreation issues? 

Again, I kid, but writing about someone as divisive as Cawthorn has been eye-opening in that I’ve also written about the far-right infiltrating school boards and book banning for the local paper, both troubling topics, but neither ever got the same feedback, engagement, or pushback that an anti-Cawthorn piece got. People like to be angry. I think we like the divide.

As much as this isn’t as celebratory as I once thought it might be, however, I need to remember to pat myself on the back a bit because while Cawthorn might not have lost the way I’d like, and while I’m under no illusion that I was the reason, I did do my part. And he’s still our congressman for another 7 months…plenty of opportunity for new content and more prominent bylines. Plus, I haven’t yet really delved into who Chuck Edwards is. Maybe he’ll prove a formidable foe. 

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