Madison Cawthorn is what happens when a political party refuses to hold its own accountable and puts power before governing. The GOP decided that Donald Trump could say and do anything with no consequences as long as they held the White House. Cawthorn has learned that lesson and is now threatening violent civil war. He knows few in his party will call him out and nobody will hold him accountable. Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy will stay silent, fearful of losing support of the radical GOP base. Republicans are no longer a patriotic party. 

On Sunday, Cawthorn fully embraced the Big Lie, calling our elections illegitimate and suggesting violence is the answer.  He threatened to “take down” Democratic leaders. “I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.” He went on to say, “Because, you know, if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place — and it’s bloodshed.” 

Cawthorn should probably be expelled from Congress. Instead, the GOP leadership will stay silent. They’ve decided that it’s okay for Republicans to say or do anything to undermine our democracy. They wouldn’t condemn Donald Trump. They haven’t condemned Matt Gaetz or Marjorie Taylor Greene or Lauren Baubert or even the January 6 rioters. There’s no reason to believe they will criticize Cawthorn for his treasonous rhetoric. 

To be clear, Madison Cawthorn is an idiot and dilettante. He’s a college dropout who knows nothing about history, governing, or politics. All he knows is what gets attention. He routinely makes statements that make no sense. He’s learned that the more outrageous his claims, the louder the applause from the fascist wing of the Republican Party. In the GOP, he’s a rising star.

On a personal level, Cawthorn is an asshole. He lied about the car wreck that left him paralyzed, claiming his best friend, who was driving, left him to die. In fact, the friend saved his life. He lied about being rejected by U.S. Naval Academy. And he has been accused numerous times of inappropriate sexual behavior. None of that matters to Republicans who embraced Trump and refused to hold him accountable for similar behavior. 

The Republican Party has become a breeding ground for miscreants, fascists, and racists because they know they will not be called out or held responsible. As long as they can trash Democrats, they are acceptable candidates and party leaders. Even the few Republicans who might criticize Cawthorn now will stay quiet when he runs for re-election. 

The real take away, though, is that for Republicans, nothing matters but power. As a significant part of their party embraces armed conflict, Republican leaders stay silent. Cawthorn, Boebert, Gaetz, and Greene have all ratcheted up their rhetoric because they know there are no consequences. Anti-maskers follow their lead and increasingly threaten violence over attempts to curb the spread of the pandemic. They’ve been encouraged by GOP leaders whose silence has said loud and clear that nobody in the party will be held accountable for anything, no matter how bad or dangerous the behavior. Power is the only thing that matters.

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