Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Charlotte Observer. April 8, 2022.

Editorial: Trump and his ‘big lie’ are visiting NC. Republicans should move on.

It’s ironic that Donald Trump will hold his North Carolina rally at a venue known for hosting weddings. What Republicans and the former president should be headed toward is a divorce.

Trump likely will get an energetic welcome from his core followers, who will gather Saturday at The Farm at 95 in Selma to support the Senate candidacy of U.S. Rep. Ted Budd. But Trump’s rally crowd last month in Georgia was underwhelming and the approaching primaries may confirm that his hold on the Republican Party is loosening.

Even those candidates who win a nomination thanks to a Trump nod are likely to find his endorsement as much a hindrance as a help in the general election. While President Joe Biden’s favorable rating has fallen to dismal levels amid congressional gridlock and inflation, a recent NBC News poll found that he is still more popular than Trump is now. It also found voters were more likely to support a candidate endorsed by Biden than Trump.

Those numbers hardly dim the eagerness of some Republican office holders to seek Trump’s blessing. Among those scheduled to speak at Saturday’s rally are North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and four of the state’s congressional representatives: Budd, Madison Cawthorn, Dan Bishop and Greg Murphy.

That list of Trump’s suitors only adds to the sense that the GOP is becoming a party of extremists.

Robinson, a likely candidate for governor in 2024, has claimed teachers are indoctrinating children and has attacked transgender individuals and homosexuality as “filth.” Budd, a gun store owner who wears a sidearm in his ads, promises to be “a liberal agenda crusher.” Bishop, as a state senator, was the author of the notorious “bathroom bill” that targeted transgender people and made the state the subject of boycotts. Murphy has posted — and then deleted — racially charged tweets about then-Sen. Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Cawthorn’s incendiary comments are becoming too numerous to mention and Republican congressional leaders are trying to distance themselves from him.

To win Trump’s endorsement, candidates must in turn endorse his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. When Alabama Republican Senate candidate Mo Brooks, a stalwart Trump backer and election-result denier, said his party needs to move on from Trump’s obsession with the 2020 result, Trump took back his endorsement of Brooks.

Trump’s demand for loyalty to a lie is not only destructive to faith in democracy, but it’s also damaging to the Republican Party’s ability to nominate its strongest candidates. Saturday’s rally is a case in point. By supporting Budd, Trump is promoting a Republican less likely to win a general election than Budd’s top primary opponent, former Gov. Pat McCrory.

Most presidents see their approval ratings rise after they leave the glare and conflict of office, but Trump’s ratings have remained low as he continues to push the “Big Lie” about a stolen election. He hasn’t been helped by his appealing to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help with the investigation of business deals involving Biden’s son Hunter, or by a federal judge’s ruling that Trump likely committed a crime in his attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Republicans are expected to do well in the midterm elections, as the party opposite the party occupying the White House often does. But if the GOP wants to win over moderate and unaffiliated voters for the long term, it will need to move away from the divisiveness that Trump stokes and the extremism of those Republican politicians who pander to him.

When Trump took hold of the Republican Party in 2016, it was the equivalent of a shotgun marriage. But that all went a little sour with Trump’s 2020 election loss and the assault on the Capitol that followed. Sensible and civil members of the Republican Party, at least what’s left of them, should skip Saturday’s lovefest for Trump and push for a divorce.

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Winston-Salem Journal. April 11, 2022.

Editorial: Cawthorn lawsuit leads to questions

We might not be writing about Rep. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.-14) at this time if not for recent legal decisions and their application in other arenas as well as their implications for weightier issues.

No, not the traffic stops — three times in five months for speeding, driving left of center and driving with a revoked license, among other charges. The issues that concern us are more of a constitutional and electoral nature.

Back in January, a group of 11 North Carolina voters sued Cawthorn, who is running for reelection in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District — we checked a few times to be sure about that — to disqualify him from running for a second term because of his support for the insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The suit was dismissed at first, but it was recently revived by a federal court of appeals. A hearing to determine its legitimacy will be held May 3.

The theory behind the lawsuit is that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bans from eligibility those who, after previously taking an oath to “support the Constitution,” then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies.”

Cawthorn says he didn’t participate in an insurrection.

But he did vote to decertify the results of the 2020 election — which we now know was part of a larger scheme to overturn a free and fair election in which Biden’s win was decisive. He also spoke at the rally preceding the storming of the Capitol and has repeatedly praised those who followed through.

Is that “aid and comfort”? The court will decide.

Cawthorn is not alone; similar lawsuits have been filed against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and other Republicans.

“This is a frivolous suit. It’s been dismissed everywhere they tried it because it is factually and legally baseless,” Rory McShane, a campaign consultant, said of the charges against Gosar.

But if supporting the insurrectionists isn’t enough to constitute a violation of his oath, what would be?

We can’t guess what the outcome of any of these trials will be. But the fact that we’re here — that members of Congress are running for reelection after essentially supporting a coup — leads to many other questions worth considering.

Like: Why haven’t their supporters already made it clear that they won’t continue to support such schemers? Is this really how American elections should be decided — through questionable legal maneuvers and a physical attack that attempted to override the will of the voters?

And: Are these districts sending us their best?

They obviously aren’t. Even before the insurrection, we witnessed a downgrade in the quality of candidate, as if some districts limited the field to WrestleMania brawlers rather than experienced, accomplished community leaders with demonstrated integrity and intellectual heft. It’s a trend that needs to be reversed.

This lawsuit isn’t Cawthorn’s first brush with controversy. Many supported him even after learning that he lied about his personal life; even after he prepared to abandon his district for friendlier waters, then changed his mind; and even after he seemed to indicate support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s disappointing that it took his recent claim to have been invited by Republican colleagues to cocaine orgies for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to finally chastise him.

It is somewhat comforting to know that other Republicans, including Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, have announced their support for one of Cawthorn’s Republican competitors.

But it’s disappointing that Cawthorn still has enough support to make a win possible.

There are superior candidates in both parties. As far as we know, none of them have ever advocated overthrowing the government.

But standards should exceed that low bar.

Readers’ lists of candidate qualifications will vary, oftentimes including adherence to partisan goals. But we suggest a few that every candidate should meet:

The ability to be honest even when it’s not politically advantageous.

A commitment to serving constituents rather than developing a Twitter following.

And most of all, at this crucial time, a commitment to lowering the temperature, to helping this divided nation find common ground and common cause. We don’t need more congressional flamethrowers.

As we’ve written before, we’d welcome more sober, rational Republican officials who reject conspiracy theories and, instead, count pennies and support the military. It would be better for the country, especially North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.

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