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OPINION: Above the law

Madison Cawthorn has learned one lesson of the Trump era well: Republican politicians are above the law.

He was stopped earlier this week for carrying a handgun in the Charlotte airport for the second time since he’s been in Congress. I doubt it was an accident. He knows he’ll face no penalty and he will energize some of the gun nuts in Western North Carolina. It was a publicity stunt directed at a very small segment of the electorate.

Cawthorn keeps showing up in the news for non-violent offenses. He’s been pulled numerous times for speeding and even driving with a revoked license. He’s not going to stop speeding or driving because he knows he won’t be held accountable and, if he is, he’ll make himself out to be victim of an unfair system, just like all the other aggrieved MAGA cultists in his district. The media is making sure he’s getting noticed. 

I suspect it’s a twisted campaign tactic. He just got a bunch of publicity for carrying a gun, reason enough for a lot of pro-gun Republicans to support him in the primary. He’s playing the rebel, giving the finger to bureaucrats and authority. I’m sure there’s a population in Western North Carolina that’s cheering him on. He hopes that it’s large enough to give him 30% of the vote in the GOP primary in NC-11. 


Western North Carolina has long gone against the grain. The people are fiercely independent and resent government interference in their lives. Much of the mountain folks sided with the Union during the Civil War because they didn’t believe they had dog in that fight. The region became a haven for Confederate deserters who tired of fighting a war that they didn’t believe in. 

After the war, those pro-Union mountaineers stayed with the party of Lincoln. While most of the state became part of the one-party Democratic South, North Carolina had “mountain Republicans.” They gave us the first GOP governor of the 20th century when Jim Holshouser was elected in 1972. They’ve always been cantankerous.


Now, a lot of those hillbillies are big Trump fans. They’re anti-regulation and fiercely independent. Cawthorn is counting on them cheering for him even if the rest of the state is sneering at him. If he can energize them to go vote against the establishment GOP that’s spending big money to stop him, he might be able to squeak through in a crowded primary field. Cawthorn knows he won’t face any real penalty for breaking the law and he might even be rewarded with re-election. 

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant. Republished from PoliticsNC.com.



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