A group of North Carolina voters urged state officials Monday to disqualify U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn as a congressional candidate, citing his participation in a rally last January in Washington that questioned the presidential election outcome and preceded the Capitol riot.Pierce writes:
... The voters contend that Cawthorn ... can’t run because he fails to comply with an amendment in the U.S. Constitution ratified shortly after the Civil War.
The 14th Amendment says no one can serve in Congress “who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress ... to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same.”
As the months go on, we may find reasons to drop Section 3 on the heads of a number of Cawthorn’s colleagues, so this action in North Carolina is more than welcome....I'm sure you all agree wholeheartedly. I'm not so sure.
It has the potential to clarify sedition for what it actually is, and for what it was on January 6. Cawthorn needs to answer for his actions that day in as many venues as possible. This is just one of them.
Here's what happens if Cawthorn is disqualified: He's replaced by a Republican. And not just any Republican -- the district Cawthorn ran and won in back in 2020 was rated as R+9 -- solidly but not overwhelmingly GOP. Under the redistricting plan that's been drawn up in North Carolina (where, of course, Republicans control the process), Cawthorn will be in an R+25 district. So while a constitutional challenge might remove a member of Congress who spoke at the January 6 rally that preceded the insurrection, that member would undoubtedly be replaced by someone who praises the insurrection and agrees with its central premise.
And the rest of the Republican Party -- which always delights in taking Democratic weapons and turning them on Democrats -- will undoubtedly respond by launching their own constitutional challenges. Notice how Kevin McCarthy is promising to strip several Democrats of committee assignments if Republicans retake the House, in retaliation for the removal of Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees?
"He will not be serving there," McCarthy said of [Eric] Swalwell's placement on the House Intelligence Committee in an interview with Breitbart.If Democrats start trying to disqualify Republicans, Republicans will respond by trying to disqualify more Democrats, because that's how you establish dominance. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment disqualifies anyone "who, having previously taken an oath ... to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." Republicans would enjoy proclaiming that Swalwell and Omar, in particular, have "given aid or comfort to the enemies" of America and the Constitution.
"Ilhan Omar should not be serving on" the House Foreign Affairs Committee, McCarthy added. "Adam Schiff, he should not be serving on Intel."
McCarthy pointed to Swalwell's association with a Chinese spy.... Swalwell, who cut ties with the spy after being alerted to her activities by federal investigators, has not been accused of wrongdoing.
In the case of Omar, McCarthy quoted her 2019 remark that a pro-Israel lobbying group's influence in Congress is "all about the Benjamins"...
McCarthy also said Schiff "lied to the American public" with his support of the unverified Steele dossier....
I know what you're thinking: There have to be consequences for this outrageous conduct. Well, that's what we said before Trump's first impeachment, and before the second one. He deserved to be impeached each time. He deserved to be impeached for other reasons as well. And he and his fellow coup plotters deserve all the scrutiny they're getting now. In a just world, there'd be serious consequences for what they did.
But impeachment had no impact, twice. Investigations of Trump's attempt to steal the election might have results, but we don't know. What we do know is that none of the scrutiny has changed public opinion. Trump is still the odds-on favorite to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. And the attention paid to Marjorie Taylor Greene hasn't made her reelection any less likely or hurt the party as a whole.
A recent Ezra Klein column quoted Eitan Hersh, a political scientist:
A third of Americans say they spend two hours or more each day on politics,” he writes. “Of these people, four out of five say that not one minute of that time is spent on any kind of real political work. It’s all TV news and podcasts and radio shows and social media and cheering and booing and complaining to friends and family.”Hersh means running for office, trying to help like-minded people win office, and doing active work to change policy.
Real political work, for Hersh, is the intentional, strategic accumulation of power in service of a defined end. It is action in service of change, not information in service of outrage.
I spend a lot of time every day on this blog, so I'm a fine one to talk, but Hersh has a point. Challenging Cawthorn's right to be in Congress is an expenditure of time that could be far better spent challenging extreme-right school board candidates -- or, for that matter, trying to elect Democrats to genuinely flippable seats in Congress. I suppose it would be nice to see a coup participant or two banned from Congress (until the Supreme Court inevitably overrules the ban), but I don't think we'll gain anything from the effort. If anything, we'll look as if we fear Cawthorn and the democratic process that (alas) legitimately elected him -- and would elect an ideological clone if he were banned.