Carolina Journal reporter and former North Carolina Republican Party executive director had a remarkable piece in Art Pope’s magazine today. It could only be described as a hatchet job aimed at Congressman Madison Cawthorn, Republican of NC-14. In one brutal swing after another, Woodhouse eviscerated Cawthorn’s pretensions as a Republican hero and, seemingly, set the stage for an establishment revolt against this 26-year-old fascist phenom.
Establishment Republicans have proven throughout the Trump era that they have a high tolerance for the clowns in their ranks. This nihilism runs all the way to the top, with even the most staid establishmentarians paying tribute to Donald J. Trump. In North Carolina, GOP leaders have long tolerated the rhetorical excretions of state Representative Larry Pittman, who has sponsored bills to institute a state religion in North Carolina and to authorize the state to secede from the Union. It looked at first like Madison Cawthorn would receive the same gentle treatment.
Then Cawthorn got in Tim Moore’s way. The Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representative had cooked up a nice, juicy congressional district for himself so he could grift on the larger stage of Washington, D.C. Cawthorn, however, coveted the district with its penetration of the Charlotte media market. So the young man went east, announcing plans to run in Moore’s new 13th district. Republicans may have found Cawthorn’s clowning around to be a bit amusing heretofore, but this time, when he asked them “Are You Not Entertained,” they answered a firm and bitter No.
Cawthorn’s lobster-like plop into hot water is not the first time a political clown from the Mountains has outlived his usefulness for a party establishment. In the Depression and World II, U.S.Senator “Our Bob” Reynolds from Buncombe County put on a ridiculous show for North Carolinians, roaming the state in a clattering jalopy (even though he was wealthy) and kissing movie star Jean Harlow on the lips. (Consensually.) The ruling Democratic establishment rolled their eyes at him for the most part. But like Cawthorn, Reynolds proved himself to be a Nazi sympathizer, and on the eve of World War II it was time to dispose of a populist demagogue who had clearly become a fascist. An “establishment” politician, Governor Clyde Hoey, challenged Reynolds in the primary and dispatched this Hitler fan with ease.
Is Cawthorn the next Bob Reynolds? He certainly resembles him. Both are authoritarian thugs with yahoo trappings and a dubious affinity for National Socialism who have worn out their political welcome. Dallas Woodhouse has long been the enforcer of the NCGOP. We’ll see if this morning’s takedown in Carolina Journal is the beginning of the end of Madison’s short career.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.