It’s Not about the Lingerie: Why the Madison Cawthorn’s Recent Scandal Matters

Madison Cawthorn by Gage Skidmore via Wiki Commons

The news cycle has not been kind to Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). Over the last several years, he has been put in an incredibly negative light, and his mythological narrative has been shattered by investigation after investigation. In August of 2020, Cawthorn was accused of sexual misconduct and assault, with one woman, Katrina Krulikas, accusing him of attempting to force her to sit on his lap and trying to kiss her when she was seventeen years old. She would not be the only one to accuse the representative of similar behavior. Recently, however, Cawthorn has come under scrutiny thanks to a new exclusive by Politico, which appears to show the young congressman at a party in lingerie and a bra.

Screenshot of Madison Cawthorn at a bar in lingerie, released by Politico’s Michael Kruse (Politico-distributed under CC BY 2.0 and cropped)

The exclusive inevitably provoked various reactions, with Cawthorn himself confirming the pictures in a tweet earlier this evening.

Others, however, have reacted in the worst way possible, ignoring the hypocrisy inherent in Cawthorn’s actions and instead focusing on a cheap shot that only serves to reinforce prejudiced ways of thinking about manhood. One example of this is Occupy Democrats Twitter account, which posted screenshots of the images and called for Cawthorn’s resignation despite wearing lingerie not being a reasonable basis for resignation.

It is especially disgusting to see an organization that claims to fight for principles of social and political change simultaneously use the image of femininity as a weapon against a political opponent instead of attacking the obvious hypocrisy of a transphobic legislator for his selective concern for gender norms.

Rep. Cawthorn is a self-appointed traditionalist who claims to represent conservative, Christian values and uses that smokescreen to attack trans and gay people despite being sworn to defend their constitutional rights as a congressman. He’s an accused sexual predator and is confirmed to have lied about the man who saved his life to make his story sound more dramatic and impressive. He’s allegedly lied about cocaine orgies and other such nonsense.

Attacking Cawthorn is easy, but it is neither necessary nor proper to attack him for wearing lingerie in and of itself. Instead, activists should point out that the same man in lingerie also denigrates trans people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.

What matters here is not the lingerie. It is that a man who has attempted to enforce gender conformity on people he doesn’t know has also broken that same conformity. Mocking supposed femininity in Cawthorn is not good politics. It is not protecting trans people. It is prejudiced, and it should be treated as such.

Judge Jackson Will Be On the Supreme Court

Judge Jackson with President Biden at the White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The fight for Judge Jackson’s nomination continues in all of its fiery and partisan vigor. Earlier this Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee locked itself in a tie over whether the Judge’s nomination should proceed, forcing Democrats to compel a general vote on the Senate floor. The fight shows the entrenched partisanship of the nomination process and reveals the underlying racism that still guides the Republican party. Despite that stiff opposition and Republicans breaking a three-decade-long tradition of avoiding such deadlocks, it appears that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be a justice soon.

After Democrats decided to bring the vote to the floor of the Senate, several Republicans announced that they would vote for Judge Jackson’s nomination. Though not a moderate by any stretch of the imagination despite his opposition to the Trumpist wing, Mitt Romney has come out in support of Judge Jackson. Though that has prompted calls for his removal as a result.

Nor would Senator Romney be the only one supporting her nomination. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins have also announced their support, practically securing Judge Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

While it is hard to gauge why Republicans like Murkowski and Collins, there are a few key reasons why the Republican opposition will fail. For one, polling shows that most Americans support Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, with nearly a plurality of independents and Democrats supporting her. Even among Republicans, Jackson has some supporters, with nearly a quarter of Republican voters behind her nomination.

Graphic by Morning Consult, April 5th, 2022.

While that is part of it, the other part of the falling Republican opposition is their inability to utilize the usual thorns in the Democrats’ side, Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. Last week, Manchin announced his support for Judge Jackson, effectively putting direct pressure on Senator Sinema, though she has consistently supported Biden’s nominee.

Failing to get Manchin and Sinema to oppose Justice Jackson means that Democrats could use Vice-President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote without relying on Republican support. And that may be why some Republicans decided to support her to avoid a backlash against them.

Whatever the reason, the support of multiple Republicans and the rare display of unity from Democrats, combined with Judge Jackson’s respected reputation, means that Judge Jackson will soon be called Justice Jackson.

The New York Times Editorial Board Doesn’t Understand Free Speech

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The fight over free speech in America has hit yet another low. In what could only be described as another stain on their already checkered history of commentary, The New York Times Editorial Board published a piece proclaiming “America has a free speech problem.” Ironically, the Times fails to understand the role of free speech and conveniently downplays the severity of right-wing censorship.

 It is nearly impossible to hear this talking point among conservative activists and pundits alike. Nearly all enjoy of them massive platforms while preaching about their supposed silenced state. People like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, and many others engage in this façade of martyrdom, seemingly unaware of their consistent growth online. This feeling of supposed laces almost every word of the Times piece.

 From the very beginning, the Times piece fails to understand freedom of speech. They write, “For all the tolerance and enlightenment that modern society claims, Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.” Forgive me, but I must have missed the part where the First Amendment requires citizens not to shun people they disagree with. In fact, I am quite certain the right to avoid a person is guaranteed under the principles of freedom of association. But I digress.

Writing onward, this piece further argues that the reason for this is because “the political left and the right are caught in a destructive loop of condemnation and recrimination around cancel culture.” They argue that the conflict between the left and right results in a confusing mesh of control over intellectual debate and public thought that makes Americans self-censor and fearful of speaking out.

They support this argument through a poll that shows that only 34 percent of Americans say that all Americans completely enjoy the right to free speech. Nowhere in their piece did the Times mention that their poll showed that 42 percent of Americans said that all Americans somewhat enjoyed free speech and that only 8 percent of Americans said that they didn’t have free speech at all. To put this another way, 76 percent of Americans said that all Americans either enjoyed free speech completely or somewhat. Even if I were to grant that focusing on the percentage who said they believed they had a complete right to free speech was an issue, presenting data without including the larger result of your polling is dishonest. Even their supposed evidence from the Knight Foundation shows that most Americans—63 percent— see Freedom of Speech as ‘extremely important.’ Add in the 28 percent who say it is ‘very important,’ and it becomes clear that an overwhelming majority of Americans support the right to free speech. If you only read the editorial board’s piece, you would believe that there was a “crisis of confidence around one of America’s most basic values.” What a narrative.

The data presented shows that most Americans are conflicted about what cancel culture is, what it means in online discourse, and how that plays out in interpersonal relationships. Pew Research shows that 56 percent of Americans consider calling out someone on social media for their statement is holding them to account for their behavior, but 56 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican say that it is an unjust punishment. The difference in opinion between Republicans and Democrats is even more pronounced.

This is not a rejection of free speech. It is the inevitable result of expanding the public forum to more people. Twitter sees hundreds of millions of people on its site, and Facebook sees even more people. For the first time, people around the world can comment directly on the issues that matter to them, and unlike what they would get in a bar or in a local newspaper, people can reach vast audiences that they never did before. It is one thing to worry about using vitriol in rhetoric online and in person, but it is completely inaccurate to suggest we are close to losing our ability to speak at all.

Tucker Carlson Ally Spews Anti-Semitic Propaganda

Douglas Macgregor via Wikimedia Commons

In perhaps one of the most horrid examples of saying the quiet part out loud, retired army Col. and Fox News analyst Douglas Macgregor has been caught spouting off what can only be described as anti-Semitic and xenophobic propaganda.

In a clip that Media Matters’ Matt Gertz shared, Macgregor can be seen talking about South Asian immigrants, claiming that they will “go back to India if an economic crisis occurs.” Following up on that claim, Macgregor asserts that the problem with the United States is that it has “rootless cosmopolitans,” an antisemitic term used in the Soviet Union to refer to Jewish people.

Macgregor’s usage of the term is not only offensive and racist but is part of a continuous pattern of discriminatory behavior that has permeated Fox News staff since its inception. Nor is it the first time that Macgregor has expressed prejudiced ideas.

Unearthed footage by CNN showed that Macgregor repeatedly claimed that Muslim immigrants to Europe would turn the continent into an Islamic State and referred to them as “Muslim invaders.” Macgregor has also made violent and downright dehumanizing comments about immigrants at the border, repeatedly suggesting that martial law should be enforced along the Mexican American border, saying that border security should be able to shoot migrants. He opposed the U.S. intervention in Kosovo because it would “put, essentially, a Muslim drug mafia in charge of that country.”

Needless to say, Macgregor’s prejudiced history is far too extensive to list in its entirety here.

It is worth noting that Tucker Carlson has endorsed Macgregor as their main foreign policy analyst, calling him “our first choice for foreign policy analysis.” Though that is not surprising, Carlson himself has been caught calling Iraqis “semi-literate, primitive monkeys.” It seems that racist minds do think alike.

Of course, none of this is surprising. Racism has a long and repeated history at Fox News. Bill O’Reilly is one example. In a 2010 interview, he told Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, then a professor at Columbia University, that he looked like a cocaine dealer.

He also referred to African Americans as “ill-educated” and said they have “tattoos on their foreheads.”

All of this is to say that Fox News, at its core, has a continuous and unending fight to maintain prejudice. A fight that they are seemingly addicted to despite all the moral failings of said prejudices. And that is by design. 74 percent of Fox News’ viewership in 2019 was white, according to Public Opinion Strategies. There is an audience for that prejudice, and it is central to Fox’s ability to turn a profit in the first place. So long as Fox operates under this framework, statements like the ones made by Macgregor and Carlson will go unchallenged, and their vile ideas will continue to spread. One can only hope somebody buys Fox out and fires these bigots, but I am not holding my breath.

Trans Rights Are Not Optional

Photo by Oriel Frankie Ashcroft on Pexels.com

Trans Americans are under attack. There is no downplaying that fact. For the last several years, the GOP, having failed to establish themselves with any substantial policies, have turned towards promoting bigoted moral panics. Critical Race Theory, Wokeskolds, and a litany of other labels have come out of this desperate electoral strategy, but the attack on trans people is one of the most dangerous campaigns that the GOP has propagated in recent years. Ignoring that fact is not acceptable and failure to oppose it renders the entirety of American society complicit in the death that will come from it.

Appeals to prejudice are nothing new to the Republican Party. Since the Goldwater Revolution, Republicans have had their ideology tied to the far-right and to the worst prejudices in American society. Since it embraced the Southern Strategy, racial grievance, and the rejection of government as an enforcer of justice, the GOP has been increasingly at odds with the needs of minorities.

But as time has gone on, their ability to demonize specific minorities has become politically untenable. One can’t scream about African Americans ad nauseum without suffering a massive backlash at the ballot box. Though that has not stopped certain figures from winning high positions in government when they do so.

But even with those victories for the GOP in mind, the political tenability of these figures is far from guaranteed. Instead, conservatives have to find new targets to demonize so they can rile up their base and they have found that target in trans people.

While a majority of Americans support trans people and their rights, one group of Americans is increasingly hostile: Conservative Republicans.

Graphic taken from PRRI 2019.

Republicans are perfectly aware that their base is opposed to trans rights and they pander to that base through the passage of bigoted and dangerous laws. Thanks to the Republicans controlling most of the legislatures in the United States, the amount of anti-trans legislation, including bathroom bills and attacks on trans-affirming care, is exploding. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have gone so far as to criminalize supporting trans children, requiring the state’s agencies to investigate trans-friendly parents as child abusers. Those who refuse to report said “abuse” are also subject to penalties.

Nor are Republicans above supporting violence to oppose the presence of trans people in America. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the most successful fundraisers for the Republican Party, has publicly called for beating trans people and has invoked the myth that trans people are child predators. It’s worth noting that trans people are nearly four times as likely to be victims of sexual assault. They are not the perpetrators.

Despite the fear-mongering, multiple studies have demonstrated that treating trans people with respect and removing discriminatory behavior are significant factors in reducing trans suicide.

I could go on about the illogical nature of the Republican demonization of trans people, but logic was never the point of this campaign of hate. Their goal is to abuse, attack, and silence trans people until they can no longer express themselves freely. Whether that gets people killed is irrelevant to GOP leadership.

That attitude can’t be allowed to stand. There is a clear and present danger in the Republican Party’s path to power and opposing it should be of the utmost importance to every American, both in government and outside it. Trans people should not have to fear being arrested for leaving their state to be themselves and it is certainly none of Governor Abbott’s business whether or not a child is trans. And yet that is the reality that many trans people and their families now face.

If the federal government fails to pass protections overturning these laws, innocent people will pay the price all because Republicans won’t expand their political net. Nobody should have their existence depend upon the whims of Republican political consultants whose only concern is winning the next election regardless of who gets hurt. With the upcoming midterms, Democrats must pass as many protections as they can for trans people, as it is clear that state legislatures will not do so. If they don’t, the abuse of trans people will continue to stain our nation. That must not happen.

Explaining Gas Price Increases

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

As gas prices rise, the first impulse is to blame the current president–regardless of party. This unfortunate assertion is based on a fundamental failure to understand causation in public policy, but it is a useful rhetorical tool, one Republican leadership is happy to use.

In an interview with Fox News last Tuesday, Former Vice-President Mike Pence laid the blame for rising gas prices squarely at the feet of Biden, saying:

In the four years of the Trump-Pence administration, we achieved energy independence for the first time in 70 years. We were a net exporter of energy. But from ver early on, with killing the Keystone pipeline, taking federal lands off the list for exploration, sidelining leases for oil and natural gas — once again, before Ukraine ever happened, we saw rising gasoline prices.”

Mike Pence, March 8th, 2022.

The reality is far more complicated and nuanced. For one, gas prices are seasonal and largely depend on the demand prompted by the consumer. Meaning that as people travel more during seasons like spring and summer, demand goes up, and gas prices soon follow. Additionally, the president’s power to directly influence gas prices in your area is always going to be limited by the conditions in your area. For example, Illinois has raised its gas taxes three times since 2019, having a far more direct connection to the rise in gas prices than anything Biden did. In other words, though leaders’ decisions affect gas prices, their overall influence depends on their level of authority, where they are, and the circumstances surrounding those decisions. And not, as some have argued, on the mere act of being president.

As for national gas prices, there are a few reasons why they are up. But first, the keystone pipeline argument. Aside from the fact that Keystone was almost certainly a violation of indigenous sovereignty and was amoral in its creation, it never was active. Thanks to oil-friendly judges, it had the legal go-ahead, but it never got the chance to be completed because activists opposed it for so long. Therefore, the Biden administration’s decision to negate the pipeline does not affect the current state of oil prices.

The main reason gas prices are rising is OPEC and the decline of oil supply, thanks to Covid-19.

OPEC, known as The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, slowed production during the pandemics heyday due to a decrease in prices caused by people not going out thanks to quarantine. Crude oil prices dropped extremely low, and these countries were losing money, so they did what they saw as reasonable at the time; they cut their production. No need to invest when there is no return on the prices. Come to the present day and most Americans are vaccinated, the world is opening up, and people are becoming more comfortable with living with covid-19. That inevitably means more travel and more demand for gas, but supply did not keep up. Combine that with the war in Ukraine right now. It should surprise absolutely nobody that the price of gas is going up.

Graphic taken from EIA.GOV

To add further context, the increase in oil prices and, by extension, gas prices increased in 2020, several months before Biden was inaugurated. Even if we were to support the idea that the president is always responsible for gas prices, the fact that the increase began in 2020 undermines the entire argument for Biden’s culpability.

With the ongoing war, the still-recovering global oil supply, and the continuing demand created by our nation opening up post-lockdown, oil prices will likely remain high for the foreseeable future. But that is not an excuse to inaccurate blame a president without any legitimate evidence supporting his culpability. Especially when such demonstrably false accusations serve the interests of right-wing politicians who couldn’t be bothered to establish a legitimate platform.

Talking Putin and Fascism with PhilosoShy

Thumbnail creation of Conor Kelly

In yet another what I hope will be an increasing series of interviews, it is my pleasure to introduce PhilosoShy, an impressive and multi-faceted content creator with an interesting life story.

As it was his first time on the show, Philo explained his development into politics as well as his difficult and painful experience with homelessness. From those experiences, Philo developed into a strong and potent voice in a sea of complicated and sometimes contradictory views of the world.

I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did, and I look forward to more like it.

Talking the Freedom Convoy with Jody of Imperial News

Thumbnail Produced by Conor Kelly

In a much-anticipated discussion, The Progressive American welcomes Jody, one-half of the Canadian leftist podcast, Imperial News.

Having been on the show before, Jody has always been welcome to the show and has been generous in his willingness to discuss his work in fighting the far right in Canada, but in our most recent interview, we went over the ongoing convoy in Canada and its relationship with the American far-right.

Interview conducted March 13th, 2022.

Though the convoy is declining in its influence, the intersection between the American and Canadian right remains a serious issue of concern that should not be ignored. Despite the gravity of the issue, I hope you enjoy the show and look forward to your feedback!

Discussion with Rico Rants

Thumbnail for discussion

Earlier this Friday, March 4th, I had the pleasure of talking with a YouTuber, podcaster, and veteran Di’Rico Baker, aka Rico Rants. On his podcast, Rendezvous with Rico, he holds a variety of guests to talk about any number of issues. Recently, Rico and I were frustrated with Candice Owens’s statements on Black Democrats, and one could argue that it was the main reason I wanted to talk to Rico in the first place.

As someone who has studied the Black Freedom Movement, albeit as a bachelor’s student, I couldn’t help but feel incensed against this idea that Black voters and activists are servile to anyone. As you will see in this show, I firmly disagree with the idea that Black voters are in any way subservient to Democratic leadership. Quite the opposite. Black voters saved Biden’s candidacy for the presidency, and though I did not want Biden to win the primary, the political power of Black voters, meaning those who showed up, can’t be denied. If anything, the power of Black mobilization on the long march towards justice is one of the most inspiring things I have ever had the pleasure of studying.

My mirror of Rico’s video, taken with permission.

If there is to be an honest conversation about the role of the Black electorate in America and in party politics, there must first be an acknowledgment of Black people as a political force in their own right. As always, I don’t speak for Black people. Nor do I represent their experiences.

My sole goal here is to preserve the historically accurate perspective on Black voting patterns and the rights of African Americans to decide their own path forward, with or without the Democratic party.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Endorses Nick Fuentes, Then Runs From the Consequences

Screenshot of Nick Fuentes’ speech taken from Steven Dennis

In perhaps an amazing display of cowardice and unmitigated gall, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green has been caught speaking at a white supremacist rally in Orlando. The rally, known as America First PAC III or AFPAC III, is a white supremacist organization that was founded and is supported by neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes. Fuentes had previously been banned from Twitter after months of spreading violent, pro-Hitler propaganda. Though some objected to his banning, his consistent support of white nationalists was justified.

Video uploaded by Conor Kelly, 2021.

AFPAC has previously highlighted and promoted other white nationalists, including Jared Taylor, Vincent James and Tim Gionet. Anti-immigrant activists such as Michelle Malkin have also attended as speakers at previous rallies.

Rep. Greene was not only attended the rally but was a highlighted speaker. During her time at the rally, Greene readily defended the rally attendees, calling them “canceled Americans” and praised them, saying “You’ve been handed the responsibility to fight for our Constitution and stand for our freedoms, and stop the Democrats who are the communist party of the United States of America.”

Screenshot of livestream taken by Huffington Post Reporter Christopher Matthias

While some have called out the fact that she was at the rally, the fact that she was joined by other Republicans such as a Joe Arpaio shows how close GOP operatives are with the far-right.

Despite her speech and her being diretly highlighted at the event through their livestreams, Rep. Greene would later downplay her connection to the event, claiming that she didn’t know the significance of the event. Of course, that is nonsensical as Fuentes, whom she was caught posing for pictures with, defended Putin and endorsed the idea that Hitler was good right before she was brought up on stage. If she didn’t know what was going on, her incompetence should be grounds for her removal from Congress.

Whether or not Rep. Greene knew what she was doing, the facts remains unchanged. Republicans are failing to cut out fascist influence from within their party, and it continues to seep in every step of the way. No matter what Republican leadership claims, they remain in league with this kind of commentary thanks their unwillingness to do what needs to be done. Unless they expel Marjorie Taylor Greene from their party and compel serious change within their party, they should be ready to face the disdain they rightfully deserve.