Congressman Madison Cawthorn announced he’s switching district to run in the newly drawn 13th district that was assumed to have been drawn for House Speaker Tim Moore. Cleveland County, Moore’s home, is in the middle of the district that stretches from Charlotte to Polk County. Moore, however, announced he’s not running for Congress. 

It sure looks like Cawthorn nudged him out, betting that his authoritarianism and ignorance is more popular among GOP base voters than Moore’s establishment grifting credentials. In a statement, he says he is concerned that the new district, which includes part of his current one, could be won by a “go along, get along” Republican. Cawthorn’s celebrity apparently gives him an edge in the primary. That said, I would much rather have Moore than Cawthorn. He might see public office as an opportunity to make money, but he’s not an idiot, which Cawthorn most definitely is.

Really, though, it doesn’t matter which district Cawthorn chooses. He’s not representing people in a district. He’s using his Congressional office as a platform to build a national following of grievance voters. The people he’s supposed to represent will need to get used to cable news hits instead of Congressional service. 

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the GOP establishment rolled over for the Trumpists. I understand that their base, particularly in rural areas, has become a group of populist culture warriors, but you would think that the old-line conservatives would at least fight for their place in the party. I hoped the election of Glenn Youngkin signaled a shift to more responsible leadership.

Maybe I’m misreading the situation, though. Maybe Moore took a pass because he believes he can be more effective in holding onto the speakership. Had he run and won in the Congressional race, he would, at best, be a freshman in the majority party with little power in Washington, at least for a few years and would be in a long line of people seeking leadership positions. As speaker, not only is he one of the most powerful politicians in the state, he has a chance of holding off the populists who seem to be ascendant within the GOP. 

Regardless of why Moore chose to stay, the whole episode shows the upheaval occurring with the Republican Party right now. The Madison Cawthorn-Matt Gaetz-Marjorie Taylor Greene-Lauren Boebert wing of the party can flex some muscle, but I suspect their power lies mainly with the Republican base. While they might be stars of Newsmax, their nasty, ignorant brand of politics won’t likely play as well with a broader audience. Their success is as much the result of the GOP’s gerrymandering as anything. If Cawthorn had to run in a competitive district, he would likely get beat. His future is probably limited to a back-bench in the GOP, despite a lot of time in cable news green rooms .  

GET UPDATES

Get the latest posts from PoliticsNC delivered right to your inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!