History rotates between tragedy and farce, but sometimes a farce turns out to be something far more dangerous. In his loose-lipped way, Madison Cawthorn toed the line of open incitement to political violence. The prospect of another uprising against the government of the United States was in no way theoretical when Cawthorn told a constituent “we have some plans in motion I can’t make public right now.” Cawhtorn was playing the classic fascist game of the will to power.
For all his historical illiteracy, Cawthorn seems to regard himself as a player in a grand historical drama. He referred to Adolf Hitler’s summer home as a “bucket list” destination, even referring to the most evil man who ever lived with the honorific “fuhrer.” His rhetoric is consistently melodramatic, a semi-literate’s hackneyed imitation of grand orations from the 20th century’s greatest demagogues. Cawthorn sees himself as voice of the red-state volk in a war with cosmopolitan Others for the control of the nation and the course of history.
It’s classic fascism. The concept of a wronged majority called to violent action against an internal enemy, with charismatic leaders representing the white hats and the black hats an embodiment of degeneracy, is the main trope by which fascist leaders rallied their followers in the 20th century. Cawhtorn’s crude, blustering machismo and flair for the dramatic would not have been out of place in Mussolini’s March on Rome. Whether he knows it or not, he is imitating some of the forces who helped to make the 20th century the bloodiest in human history.
“Bloodshed” is his word, not mine. Though I doubt Cawthorn really wants to see a hot war break out between Blue America and the MAGA volk, violence suffuses his rhetoric and behavior. He is rarely seen without a firearm, even attempting to carry a loaded Glock onto an airplane last summer. It’s a testament to white privilege that he wasn’t arrested for that action; North Carolina rapper Petey Pablo served two years in prison for the same offense. But the point is that menacing his opponents with weaponry and the threat of retaliation is central to his political persona.
Violence, aggrieved majoritariansim, and the marshaling of authoritarian means are persistent themes in Cawhtorn’s brief political career. These elements add up to what can fairly be called fascism. Cawthorn is not just a particularly radical and obnoxious extrusion of the American political right. He and colleagues like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Josh Hawley are something new to these shores. They are the most dangerous threats our democracy has faced since 1860.
Madison Cawthorn cannot be allowed to keep brandishing his torch a barn full of hay. There are too many radicalized, mentally unbalanced people in this country who are listening to him and becoming even more politically militant. He’s dangerous. And I believe that most Republican leaders understand that fact as well as any liberal. Responsible politicians on both sides of the aisle need to end this man’s political career before he causes irreparable damage to our republic.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.