Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn is taking flak for telling a crowd of fellow young conservatives to follow his example and abandon higher education.
Speaking at the multi-day “Americafest” conference hosted by Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump far-right youth organising group, the first-term North Carolina representative mused to his audience that “I think you should home school. I was homeschooled all the way through. I am proudly a college dropout.
“If you are not becoming an engineer or a doctor or a lawyer, I highly encourage you to drop out. It’s a scam.”
The reaction to Mr Cawthorn’s words was swift and caustic. Several users compared his words to the “ignorance is strength” maxim propagated by the totalitarian regime that governs George Orwell’s 1984; others pointed to Mr Cawthorn’s privileged background.
Others seized on the perversity of the underlying message. “The Trump Republicans are now telling kids to drop out of school,” wrote AMERICABlog editor John Aravosis. “At what point will parents finally have enough of the damage these people are doing to their kids?”
During his first year on Capitol Hill, Mr Cawthorn has become one of the congressional GOP’s most incendiary and controversial members. A member of the hardcore Freedom Caucus, which boasts members including Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, he is a vocal proponent of wild claims including that the 2020 election was stolen and that future elections will be similarly compromised.
Earlier this year, he raised the prospect that in that situation, the result might be “bloodshed” as furious conservatives – whom he has previously told to be armed and dangerous – took up arms in response. A spokesperson claimed he was condemning violence, not promoting it. He has been widely condemned for several times bringing weapons with him on visits to schools.
Mr Cawthorn has also been condemned for racist statements, including a website launched before he was elected that criticised a journalist for leaving academic “to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker, who aims to ruin white males running for office”. And in October, he told an audience that mothers should raise their sons to be “monsters” as an act of resistance against “demasculation”.