To a naive soul, it might seem that Madison Cawthorn fears for his reelection. The Western North Carolina showman was recently down in Florida attending a fundraiser in his own honor to which donors must have contributed $50,000 for the privilege of seeing him in the flesh. Of course, Cawthorn burns through his campaign account at a continuous rate, suggesting that he was simply bilking these wealthy Floridians for the benefit of lavishly compensated staffers. Tawdry indeed. But more disturbing was the primary event for which Cawthorn had flown down to the Sunshine State. With his predecessor Mark Meadows, he was helping scheme out the restoration of Donald Trump.
Trump, who would never deign to spend a single night in rural North Carolina, seems to have taken a liking its mountain politicians. He hired Mark Meadows as his final chief of staff and seems to have stuck with him despite, or because of, the dimwitted mountaineer’s failure to steer him to a successful second term. It wasn’t long after Madison Cawthorn defeated Trump’s choice for the Eleventh District, one Lynda Bennett, that the Orange Autocrat’s minions invited Cawthorn to speak at the Republican National Convention. Trump seems drawn to showboats and populists. Going back to the ludicrous “Our Bob” Reynolds, North Carolina has had a weakness for that kind of provocateur.
In the months since Trump left office, Meadows has remained a constant in the disgraced autocrat’s retinue. He reportedly fed Trump’s delusion that the ex-president would be reinstated this August. It’s always hard to tell whether Meadows is being a blind fanatic or if his ideological zeal and personal dimness draw him into delusions akin to Trump’s. Regardless, Meadows appears a continued servant of the throne. If Donald Trump runs and wins in 2024, there’s a good chance that Mark Meadows will return to the White House as the conquering hero’s aide-de-camp.
Meadows wields influence with Trump, particularly when matters involve North Carolina. He convinced Trump to endorse Ted Budd over Pat McCrory and Mark Walker, delivering a blow to the latter man whom Meadows absolutely detests. And now he has brought Madison Cawthorn into the exiled autocrat’s inner circle. Surely the former president will be getting good advice from a young man who thinks Congress voted on the Emancipation Proclamation.
North Carolina has a rich history of interactions with historical American presidents. John F. Kennedy so liked Governor Terry Sanford that historians believe Kennedy planned to drop L.B.J. from the ticket and replace him with the North Carolinian. Jesse Helms was a constant conservative voice attempting to enforce orthodoxy on the Reagan White House. Opinions differ on Kennedy and Reagan, Sanford and Helms, but surely it is a new twist to see some of our state’s most dubious congressmen advising a man who wants to make himself the first King to rule America since old George III.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.