While the presidential election in North Carolina came down to a relatively slim margin, one race that, unsurprisingly, was not so close was that of Congressional District 11 — a race between Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis. The slightly-less-gerrymandered-than-before lines of the district offered Cawthorn, a political novice, an easy path to victory. That the race was even as close as it was (54% to 42%) shines a light on a polarizing candidate.
Still, Cawthorn’s conviction and tenacity during the race were admirable, and I, for one, appreciate his enthusiasm to “serve each and every member of this district,” and his vow to “bring an end to partisan politics . . . and stand for all Americans,” as he tweeted on election night. However, within minutes of earning victory, before those tweets, his first public statement as congressman-elect was a short tweet repeating a meme for liberals to “cry more,” apparently mocking their frustration or sadness. Right out of the gate, his first action was to sneer at those who did not vote for him. Is this what he means by standing for all of us? Did he type that and feel like a proud patriot, an elected representative for all people putting his best foot forward? As one of Cawthorn’s constituents, I certainly do not want to be represented this way.
I made the brave decision to dive into the responses to his tweet, and it didn’t take long to find someone who responded with “walk more.” What a shocking and cruel and, literally, below-the-belt thing to say to a wheelchair-bound person! Unfortunately, I can’t say it was unwarranted. If you are going to begin your political career with such negativity, this is the level of discourse you will get. Is this type of name-calling that he wants? Is this constructive to making American great again? I know Madison can do better.
Imagine, if you will, his first tweet was different, something like: “Thank you to the citizens of Western North Carolina for electing me. I look forward to representing all of you.” Or maybe, “Thank you for entrusting me to represent Western North Carolina! I want to hear from you: Please let me know what issues are important to you. I want to work for you.” Instead, he chose to represent us all by making fun of half of us. Could he have put a better foot forward?
Madison has a choice to make: He can be a uniter, working for all people of WNC, or he can be a divider. My hope is he moves forward with kindness, empathy and an open mind. These are not partisan traits. They are not exclusive to any party or ideology. They are the traits of great leaders, and unfortunately he showed none of them in his first action as a congressman-elect. His idol in the White House has made a lot of fans with hatred and lies, pride and wrath, and negativity, but in doing, so he’s alienated even more. Donald Trump’s antics are simply not up to the standard of the most important job in the world. Madison can choose to follow his idol’s path, fanning the flames of hatred, or he can lead by listening, respecting and working for us all.
Madison likes to boast about his titanium-reinforced backbone. It’s a great metaphor, but hints of jingoism and xenophobia. Joe Biden has been willing to admit past faults and rethink his positions. Even Donald Trump has changed his ideas over the years. Conviction is admirable; everyone should have (informed) opinions. We can fight for what we believe, but please do so with an open mind. We can have differing opinions and still live in harmony. We can argue our points, but with respect and civility. (And facts!) We can listen to others. We can respect each other. We do not have resort to name-calling like the president does. Madison does not have to stoop to divisiveness. He can take the high road and be part of the solution.
— Zac Altheimer