The insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 was a seminal moment in American politics and our country’s history. It was the logical result of a president who lied to the country about, well, just about everything – including that he lost the 2020 election. It was a slashing wound on the body politics, one that is still scarring over.
North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R) doesn’t see it that way. Or at least he hasn’t grasped that angry and inflammatory rhetoric in the service of political expedience has real-world consequences.
In a speech at a county event for the North Carolina GOP, Cawthorn said that the 2020 election was “rigged” and “stolen”( it wasn’t) and that reality (it’s not) would “lead to one place, and that’s bloodshed.”
He wasn’t done! Added Cawthorn:
“And I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there’s nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American. And the way that we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states.”
Don’t make him lead a violent uprising, America: Admit that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump despite the fact that there is ZERO evidence of widespread election fraud despite a slew of recounts and lawsuits brought by the Trump forces!
Cawthorn spokesman Luke Ball told CNN that he was “CLEARLY advocating for violence not to occur over election integrity questions.” Which, well, no, it’s not at all clear.
See, because when you demand that people acknowledge a falsehood (the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen) or else, then you’re not really advocating against violence. And if that’s your goal – as Cawthorn’s spokesman suggested it is – then you need to articulate it far, far better than the congressman did.
Given what we saw happen on January 6 – five people dead, more than 100 police officers injured, 500-plus people arrested for their roles on that day – the only responsible thing for lawmakers in both parties is to completely condemn the attempted use of force to change an election reality that they don’t like.
Cawthorn, even if you give him the benefit of the doubt about what he meant to say, isn’t doing that. What is he doing? Playing to the Trumpist base of the Republican Party by continuing to push the Big Lie because he knows that it guarantees applause.
Dangerous rhetoric doesn’t simply drift into the ether.
It finds its way into the ears and minds of people who don’t know that politicians are simply posturing for praise. They think this is the truth. And they get angry when someone like Cawthorn says the election was stolen. So when words like “bloodshed” are thrown out and calls to “defend our liberty at all costs” are made, there is a segment of people hearing those messages that wants to do something about it.
None of this, unfortunately, is a theoretical discussion. January 6 happened. And unless elected officials like Cawthorn grasp the responsibility they bear to tell people the truth about the election, there’s every reason to believe there will be future incidents that echo the insurrection at the US Capitol.