2020 Man of the Year: Cal Cunningham

December 26, 2020

Democrats in North Carolina have a habit of nominating horny lawyers to serve in the U.S. Senate. It came back to haunt them in 2020, all but shattering the party's dreams of unified government. For this reason, failed Senate candidate Cal Cunningham (D., N.C.) is a Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.

Most election prognosticators saw Cunningham as close to a sure bet to score a seat for Democrats by defeating Sen. Thom Tillis (R., N.C.). Things changed when a Free Beacon alumnus discovered Cunningham was having an extramarital affair with the wife of an Army sergeant. Adultery, as it turns out, is frowned upon in the military.

"[Y]ou are historically sexy," Cunningham texted his mistress, Arlene Guzman Todd, before confessing his desire to "kiss [you] a lot." In the age of Donald Trump and Anthony Weiner, it was a quaint political scandal that felt outdated, almost boring. In an election often hysterically described as "the most important of our lifetimes," Cunningham was willing to risk it all for some side poon.

We hope the poon was worth it. Cunningham's lead evaporated in the weeks leading up to the election, as he continued to dodge questions about other mistresses who might come forward. His handling of the scandal was Clintonesque, and reminded voters that even generic Democrats are selfish morons. Tillis won by less than 2 percentage points, and Democrats lost their best chance of retaking the Senate.

Cunningham, it can be argued, reflects the values of the modern Democratic Party more than most. He saw something he wanted and took it, consequences be damned. He sought refuge in a basement to avoid accountability. He let everyone who loved him down. He conceded without a fight.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) must be pissed, but he has only himself to blame. Schumer handpicked Cunningham and ushered him to nomination, crushing the the dreams of a qualified black female candidate in the process—a running theme in the Democratic Party's efforts to win back the Senate.

Schumer assumed Cunningham was a safe bet. He thought he was getting a boring white dude who could base his entire campaign on having served in the military while disavowing everything Democrats claim to believe. He got the PG-version of John Edwards instead, with none of the charisma and only a fraction of the horniness. It was the party's worst recruiting blunder since Hillary Clinton in 2016.

It's not like Cunningham's wife was dying of cancer or anything, so the media didn't even bother to treat her as a victim, or consider the impact on his children, or dwell on the rank stupidity of banging one's mistress in the family home during a campaign. Instead, most right-thinking pundits maintained that voting for the Democratic candidate was still the only morally acceptable choice.

Bless you, Cal Cunningham, for reminding us that even boring nerds have sex and cheat on their wives, and for destroying your marriage and political career in the service of a noble cause: Maintaining Mitch McConnell's iron grip on power for (at least) another two years.