Tom Cotton Is a Right-Wing Wild Card

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas (Photo: Michael Vadon via Flickr Commons; Illustration: Jared Holt)

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas intends to spend his time this year on the campaign trail stumping for his fellow Republicans, rather than traversing the “natural state,” where he is on the ballot in November. Cotton is headed toward an essentially uncontested reelection as no Democrat is running against him. That makes him an effective wild card, facing little possibility of accountability for his extreme rhetoric or policy positions​ and freeing him up to assist with other Republican projects.

Cotton’s latest television ad is aimed squarely at Joe Biden, who is currently leading in the Democratic Party nomination for president, and it attacks the former vice president for being “weak on China and wrong for America.” The ad then praises President Donald Trump for his stance on China and says that Cotton is “standing” with the president. Breitbart News, which was given an advance copy of the ad, described it yesterday as “one of the most vicious hits on Biden and his family’s corruption and deep ties to the Chinese Communist regime in Beijing.” Breitbart News’ write-up of the ad say​s it will appear on television not in Arkansas but rather in Ohio—an electoral battleground state. Cotton distributed a similar ad in Arkansas and key swing states earlier this month that alleged every Democrat running for president had embraced socialism in some form.

On this morning’s edition of SiriusXM Patriot’s “Breitbart News Daily,” Cotton discussed his new ad and addressed the growing coronavirus pandemic, which Cotton blamed squarely on the country of China. In mid-February, Cotton took to Fox News to push a conspiracy theory that China had created the coronavirus in a biolab in Wuhan, China. Cotton told host and Breitbart News editor-in-chief Alex Marlow that China had “unleashed a plague on the entire world while they are threatening to kill Americans by withholding essential pharmaceuticals from our nation.”

“These are not good folks,” Cotton said of China. “And they are a competitor with us. Joe Biden still does not understand that.”

Cotton’s Capitol Hill office ​is​ temporarily closed ​due to the disease.​ But that didn’t appear to stop Cotton from engaging with extreme groups. Brigitte Gabriel of the anti-Muslim group ACT for America uploaded a video to Twitter in which she claimed to have spoken with Cotton yesterday, but ​they had to do so over the phone because of his office’s self-quarantine.​

Speaking with Marlow, Cotton appeared to have embraced his freedom to assist other Republicans in this cycle. Although Cotton did acknowledge that he has two opponents running—an independent and a libertarian candidate—he made it clear that he does not view them as significant threats to his reelection. Instead, Cotton shared some of his alternative plans for the election year ahead.

“My team and I have worked diligently over the last five years to be prepared for this reelection and the dividend of that was we do not have a Democratic opponent, and of course​, that gives me some free time for what you might call ‘extracurricular activities’ to bring our president key states such as Ohio or supporting great senators like Joni Ernst in Iowa or Cory Gardner in Colorado,” Cotton said. “And I certainly will be doing my all to make sure that we reelect the president and that we do not elect Joe Biden.”

Cotton has made headlines for his far-right anti-immigrant positions, his pedaling of conspiracy theories​, and his hawkish foreign policy agenda. Just this morning, Cotton gained attention for promising to “hold accountable those who inflicted [coronavirus] on the world.” When a reporter questioned what Cotton meant by that statement, a Twitter account notorious for spreading misinformation during Hurricane Sandy said it meant “China will pay for this,” to which Cotton responded: “Correct.”

With all his ​extra​ free time, we should expect to see more ​of Cotton; with an all-but-sure ticket to six more years in the U.S. Senate, we should not expect him to be any less extreme.