According to a report by the AP, Democrats, not Republicans, beat Madison Cawthorn in the GOP primary in NC-11. Their analysis shows that 5,400 of the early votes came from people who voted in the 2020 Democratic primary. Cawthorn lost by fewer than 1,500 votes, indicating that the crossover votes almost certainly did him in. 

We shouldn’t take anything away from the Republicans who put energy into defeating him. Senator Thom Tillis, Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, and House Speaker Tim Moore all endorsed Chuck Edwards who gave up a safe senate seat to try to rid us of Cawthorn. In addition, Republican operatives worked to keep Cawthorn from winning re-election. We should celebrate a bipartisan victory against reactionary Trumpism. 

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the anti-Trump Congressman from Illinois, enlisted his organization, Country First, to urge Democrats to vote against Trump Republicans like Cawthorn to protect democracy. Kinzinger is a patriot who fully understands the threat to our democracy and has the courage to stand up to his party. Like Liz Cheney, he’s been bashed by follow Republicans and dismissed by the progressive Democrats. He’s willing to give up his political home to fight for the survival of our country. 

Kinzinger’s organization had a similar impact in Georgia, except instead of defeating an incumbent, Country First helped convince Democrats to support Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from a Trump-backed challenger. Kinzinger is showing people how to keep their political beliefs in tact while opposing the anti-democratic authoritarians that have infiltrated the GOP. He’s leading the fight to take back his party and he’s enlisting support from his erstwhile political adversaries. 

Nobody is asking the Democrats who supported Edwards and Raffensperger to become Republicans. Kinzinger and company are asking them to put down the Trumpist insurrection with votes instead of bullets. They are harnessing the power of democracy and proving Americans’ commitment to it is still alive. In doing so, they are also encouraging other Republicans to stand up to Trump and his anti-democratic forces.

The Democrats who voted for Raffensperger and Edwards in May will almost certainly vote against them in November. And that’s ok. The goal was to make sure that the choice is between candidates who are committed to preserving our democracy. Those Democrats can vehemently disagree with the Republicans they supported on important issues, but they agree on the fundamental framework that selects our leaders. 

Democrats who might feel uneasy about voting in a Republican primary can also take comfort in knowing that they are probably helping their party in the long run, not just protecting democracy. Republicans have benefitted from an anti-democratic, pro-Trump movement that brought out very infrequent voters in both 2016 and 2020. Those voters will likely start to crawl back into their holes once they no longer have reactionary demagogues on the ballot. 

The defeat of Cawthorn and the win for Raffensperger should be seen as a triumph for the forces of democracy over the forces of reaction. The victory is a glimmer of light in a dark time. Conservatives and liberals formed temporary alliances that defeated illiberalism without sacrificing core beliefs. They showed that the battle of ideas that is the basis of a healthy democracy can take a brief pause to preserve the system that enables our freedom and liberty.

We’ve still got a long way to go, but at least we can see one way forward. Kinzinger and company were opportunistic and exploited a weakness by joining forces from both the left and right to defeat anti-democratic reactionaries. Cynics and purists on both sides will down play the outcomes, but the May primary results in Georgia and NC-11 were victories for democracy. They showed that enough people understood the stakes and we’re willing to do what was necessary. That’s a sign of hope. I’ll take what I can get. 


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