Cawthorn — who is 25, never graduated from college and has never lived anywhere else but Western North Carolina except for one semester at a private college in Virginia — told Smoky Mountain News Staff Writer Corey Vaillancourt that his opponent in the race to replace Mark Meadows is racist.
“My opponent is racist. White liberals are the most racist people I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Cawthorn told the SMN.
His opponent, 62-year-old Democrat Moe Davis, is a retired Air Force colonel and a former chief prosecutor in the terrorist trials at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. He attended law school at a historically Black college and taught for four years at Howard, a prominent historically Black college. He also served as an administrative law judge at the U.S. Department of Labor. He resigned his position at Guantanamo because he disagreed with the George W. Bush administration’s decision to allow testimony obtained through torture.
“I stand on my record,” Davis responded. “I have a record. I’ll be 62 years old next week.”
Calling Davis a racist — which is a patently absurd and unfounded accusation, by the way — also means Cawthorn is painting a large part of what would be his constituency with the same broad brush, calling them racist. That may be a strategic political stance, but it also sounds like someone who will find it difficult to relate to many of those in this district and who isn’t interested in working with those with whom he holds different opinions.
His ridiculous claims of racism against his opponent aren’t the only criticism Cawthorn has faced lately. Some have attacked him for surrounding himself with symbols that have become associated with the white nationalist movement. There’s the Betsy Ross flag that is often behind him when he does interviews; the Spartan symbol on the vest he’s wearing in a popular photograph of him sporting a military style rifle; and the name of his real estate investment company, SPQR, which was originally used to denote the Roman senate and its people but has been co-opted by white supremacists. Questions have also been raised about his relationships with women.
There was a time not too long ago when openly accusing an individual or group of being racist would be considered an outrageous insult. In this politically charged and divisive time, however, it just seems to be accepted as blunt or tough talk. That’s too bad, but the accusation reveals more about Cawthorn than it does Davis.
When someone with Cawthorn’s inexperience and youth makes this kind of charge against someone with Davis’ background and credentials, well, it’s just hard to take him seriously. If he’s wants to wrap himself in the mantle of the new conservative, he could start by not using the tired, old tropes and clichés of the worst of his predecessors.