When Carolina Journal first reported first-term U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s intention to abandon his current district next year to run in an adjacent one, CJ quoted Cawthorn as saying his decision was part of “a strategy to increase conservativism in North Carolina.”

Here’s what Cawthorn said in a subsequent video making it official: “Knowing the political realities of the 13th District, I am afraid that another establishment, go-along-to-get-along Republican would prevail there.”

The “establishment Republican” Cawthorn was calling out was clearly N.C. Rep. Tim Moore, who’d been widely expected to seek the Republican nomination in the new 13th District stretching from the mountains to the Charlotte suburbs. To label Moore a “go-along-to-get-along Republican” is, among other things, to reveal an embarrassing ignorance of how legislative chambers work. Moore is the longtime speaker of the N.C. House. At worst, other GOP lawmakers may “go along” to “get along” with him.

Of course, one regularly finds the words “embarrassing” and “ignorance” in the same sentence as the name of the freshman congressman from Western North Carolina. Madison Cawthorn is a callow and appallingly ignorant young man who regularly embarrasses conservatives and Republicans, whether they admit it or not.

My indignation about this episode, however, isn’t primarily directed at Cawthorn, who is likely a pawn in some broader (and sillier) scheme hatched by others. What appalls me is that out-of-state operatives are using him as a vessel to trash the very real accomplishments of conservative governance in our state. You can see the same dynamic in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate, with the Club for Growth and other supporters of U.S. Rep. Ted Budd sliming former Gov. Pat McCrory as “unprincipled” with “a record of failure.”

Many North Carolina conservatives, myself included, have disagreed with McCrory, Moore and other GOP leaders from time to time. But you’d have to be living under a rock, or perhaps in some faraway beachfront resort, not to be aware of and appreciate their role in enacting some of the most far-reaching and successful conservative reforms in recent American history.

These leaders and their colleagues cut state taxes multiple times. The new state budget will phase out North Carolina’s corporate rate entirely. Since 2010, state spending has fallen significantly as a share of the state’s economy. Thanks to a thriving charter sector and an expanding voucher program, North Carolina parents have more school choice than ever before. During McCrory’s tenure, the state substantially reformed its system for financing infrastructure and curtailed costly regulations. Those are only some of the entries on a long list of victories.

Such victories, and the practical experience that comes with them, are the building blocks of a successful political movement with the goal and capability of governing North Carolina and the rest of the country. Soundbites and clickbait, on the other hand, build little except fundraising lists.

Speaking of which, the off-stage grifters and demagogues who’d like to portray Tim Moore as a do-nothing squish and Madison Cawthorn as a conservative champion seem to think they’ve mastered the art of political manipulation. Moore did, after all, bow out of a potential primary fight in the 13th District and announced that he would seek another term in the legislature — and as speaker of the house.

Mission accomplished? Depends on the mission you have in mind. The most-despised institution in American government right now is Congress. Hard-core partisans appreciate their own party’s members, perhaps, but a broad swath of voters from the center-left to the center-right view our federal legislature as a circus of ponderous pachyderms and clueless clowns.

Although some may think otherwise, a feckless and disreputable Congress is a threat to limited, constitutional government. It concedes too much power to the executive and judicial branches. Our republic has grave problems — the impending bankruptcy of our entitlement state being a prime example — that only legislation can address.

Having more members with practical legislative experience will help. Incessant tweeting will not.

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John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member.

(1) comment


A few things:

Yes, Madison Cawthorn is an “appallingly ignorant young man.” Unlike John Hood, however, I don’t find his fascist theocratic project to be particularly silly. Hood may dismiss outlandish members of the House like Cawthorn, Boebert, and Greene as mere tools of fundraising…but effective fundraising requires high popularity, and this new crop of red-baiting, violence loving Republicans are extremely popular amongst their base. Sorry to say, but this is the true face of your party, Hood.

In regards to the popularity of the US Congress, I think there is a bit more to tease out here. The term “Congress” lumps together both the upper (Senate) and lower (House of Representatives) bodies as a single legislative unit. While polling is quite low for Congress (21%), it is actually still on a generally upward trend after completely bottoming out around 2011-2012—during the GOP’s absolute and explicit program of obstruction and gridlock in the Obama era. If we were to poll on the Senate and House separately, I think we would find the House to be much more popular. Members of the House typically poll favorably with percentages from the upper 40’s to upper 50’s. US senators often struggle to see approval ratings above the low 30’s. Why would this be? Well, the US Senate was designed to be an anti-democratic deliberative body, not to deliver legislative results. When it functions as envisioned, it usurps the will of the American majority. But apparently, Americans like democracy…and prefer when government actually gets things done.

The glorious track record of North Carolinian conservatism is an absolute disaster. Carefully re-read the accomplishments that Hood touts here: conservatives disproportionately cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations, they reduced spending on the poor and people of color, and are attempting to gut our public education. How is any of that something to be proud of?

Also; though I’ve said it a million times: the Fed cannot go broke. Not with a sovereign fiat currency. We cannot go bankrupt at the national level, and we do not pass on this “debt” to the next generation. By contrast, federal deficit spending does juice the economy and create basically risk-free investments. US treasuries are so popular, in fact, that there are never fully enough to go around at auction. The conservative view of federal spending is flatly false and ludicrous if you have any basic understanding of how money functions in today’s United States.

Lastly, if Hood is critical of “incessant tweeting,” he may want to take a closer look at “serious politician” Pat McCrory’s twitter feed: a desperate daily attempt to rebrand as a Trumpian populist replete with anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT bigotry. His recent tweets have been a cascade of fear-mongering over a supposed “socialist mandate,” and lies about the source of current (acute) inflation. Enjoy!

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