Is Lauren Boebert about to be “Cawthorn-ized”? We’re going to find out. The same group that posted a nude video of Rep. Madison Cawthorn has now turned their attention to Rep. Boebert, who faces her own primary challenge on June 28 (ballots will start being mailed out on June 6).
But can lightning strike twice? According to David B. Wheeler, head of that group (The American Muckrakers PAC—also known as FireBoebert.com), Boebert’s primary is similar to Cawthorn’s. The districts, he says, are “very similar” demographically. And just as Cawthorn faced a North Carolina state legislator, Boebert’s challenger is Colorado Republican State Sen. Don Coram. There’s also a sense that neither incumbent cares about their district, but are instead more interested in their national profile.
No two races are alike. Cawthorn tried to switch congressional districts—a move that failed and probably hurt his image. And, of course, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis endorsed Cawthorn’s opponent. Those are two big ingredients that Boebert’s opponent does not yet have (Colorado has two Democratic Senators and a Democratic Governor). By the same token, Boebert must defend a district that includes the liberal enclave of Aspen, Colorado (a potentially big source of anti-Boebert fundraising). And Wheeler tells me “The opponent [Boebert] took out last time around is still pretty bitter about how she did it.” (In 2o2o, Boebert defeated a five-term, Trump-endorsed Republican congressman named Scott Tipton.)
Cawthorn and Boebert also share another obvious similarity: “Their own personal lives seem to be an absolute mess,” Wheeler adds.
Indeed, much of the drama has already been reported. Back in 2004, Boebert’s husband was arrested for exposing himself to two women at a bowling alley (Boebert was there). That same year, he was arrested on a domestic violence charge against her, and he served seven days in jail.
A few months later, Boebert was charged with assaulting him.
And then… they got married.
Since then, Boebert has had plenty of brushes with the law, including a 2015 incident where she was handcuffed at a country music festival after allegedly encouraging minors being detained for underage drinking to leave police custody. Boebert reportedly told police that “she had friends at Fox News and that the arrest would be national news.”
So, there are obvious similarities between Cawthorn and Boebert. And there will be no dearth of material to use against Boebert, including things that are yet to emerge (scandals are sort of like cockroaches—for every one you see, there are probably a hundred hiding).
This raises an interesting ethical question: Should we be cheering on this shitshow?
As a conservative, I’m certainly happy to trade toxic Republicans like Cawthorn and Boebert for more mainstream conservative Republicans. (And I wish someone would try this on the progressive versions of Cawthorn and Boebert: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.) But the question is whether the ends (ousting extreme politicians) justify the means (engaging in mudslinging).
Obviously, we are talking about negative campaigning here. There’s something about that that feels inherently dirty, even if these candidates are beyond the pale.
I think part of the story, though, is that groups like American Muckrakers are fulfilling a niche that was once performed by political parties and local newspapers.
In recent years, both institutions have been neutered (with local news coverage being replaced by national media), allowing politicians to avoid local accountability. “Nothing against the press or voters in those districts, but for some reason the Democrats or their opponents are afraid to push them,” Wheeler says, adding: “We’ll make it more difficult for either law enforcement or voters to ignore the behaviors of these crazy members of Congress.”
Although American Muckrakers were instrumental in highlighting less salacious scandals like Cawthorn attempting to bring a loaded gun through airport security, they are probably most famous for a nude video showing Cawthorn (in his words) “being crass with a friend.”
But don’t expect the group to necessarily expose similar videos of Boebert if they exist.
“We learned a big lesson on the nudity,” Wheeler tells me. “It was probably the nail in [Cawthorn’s] political coffin, but I’m not sure we’re going to go down that path again.” The pushback was pretty strong, and, unexpectedly, the group was portrayed as being homophobic. ActBlue, the left-leaning fundraising platform, dropped them. (“We’re considering litigation against them,” Wheeler says.)
It won’t be easy, but it seems at least possible that Boebert will continue the trend that started last week with Cawthorn’s defeat. If that happens, it’s game on. Extreme politicians from “safe districts” (who have assumed the rules don’t apply to them and that they can act with impunity) will once again discover there are some expected standards of behavior—even for them. Competition makes us better. It keeps us on our toes.
Defeating flawed politicians like Cawthorn and Boebert after one term would serve as a sort of course correction and send a message to everyone else.
Not everyone is Harry Houdini. Not everyone is Donald Trump. Sometimes people are held accountable. Sometimes, the empire strikes back.