It’s been three weeks since the tumult in the U.S. Capitol, and Senator Josh Hawley is battered, but still alive and back in the public square. Even if you don’t think Hawley is presidential material, this is indisputably a good thing for the Republican Party’s future. He’s one of the few national Republicans committed to truly pushing a populist, nationalist agenda into the post-Trump era. However, Hawley was an imperfect populist during his first two years in office. Hopefully, his brush with cancellation will encourage him to be bolder and become the true populist leader Republicans need.
After the Capitol riot, Hawley spent three weeks essentially in hiding. On Sunday, the Missouri Republican resurfaced after nearly three weeks of silence with an op-ed in the New York Post, criticizing cancel culture and the ongoing left-wing effort to make the First Amendment a pointless constitutional fiction:
It will get worse. The tech titans have already booted dozens of conservatives off social media, and if they have their way, half the House Republican conference will be expelled from Congress. The corporate titans seem to believe that the only way to get a democracy to their liking is to eliminate all threats to the Democratic Party’s unified control of government.
The alliance of leftists and woke capitalists hopes to regulate the innermost thoughts of every American, from school age to retirement. And they’ve trained enforcers of the woke orthodoxy to monitor dissent or misbehavior. A “Karen” who cuts the wrong person off in traffic gets followed home on a livestream and shamed into crying for mercy as her license plate is broadcast to an online horde eager to hound her out of a job.
Everyone knows it can happen to them, so everyone shuts down. The circle of trust narrows. Conversations — too easily recorded — shift to encrypted messaging apps. For now. Until those get banned too for interfering in efficient social credit markets. [NY Post]
Revolver is glad to see Hawley’s return. And the points Hawley makes in his article are all true. But at the same time, Hawley’s article is a disappointment. For 900 words, Hawley talks about the need to “stand up” to cancel culture. But this recommendation is useless. Plenty of Americans want to “stand up” to cancel culture, but they also know what happens if they do. Unless they are independently wealthy, they are risking their basic livelihoods. They will be doxed, their children will be targeted, they may be fired or have their businesses destroyed. The list of punishments warranting social death grows every day. Senator Hawley is one of the few people who really can do something about cancel culture. Yet in his piece, the only thing Hawley pledges to do is make sure that his book, canceled by Simon and Schuster, is published some other way, so that supporters are able to buy it.
Hawley should know better. What is needed aren’t vague condemnations of cancel culture. What the country needs, and what rank-and-file nationalists crave, is a genuine counterattack against it. And that means policy. Hawley should be promoting political steps, not just nationally but at the state and even local level, that can be taken to ensure that freedom of speech remains a real American privilege, and not something that can be stripped away by megacorporations and the mob on a whim.
Sadly, a certain lack of courage has always been Hawley’s biggest weakness. The Senator likes easy rhetoric and easy targets. America spent 2020 going through a Maoist “racial reckoning” with Americans attacked entirely based on skin color and progressive elites demanding new, explicitly racial spoils systems. Yet Hawley, who before entering politics actually called affirmative action a “racial spoils system,” has been oddly quiet over the past year. Sure, he has opposed ripping down statues, fought against defunding police, and attacked the “critical race theory” poison flooding America’s schools and workplaces. But those were relatively safe positions to take. Hawley never took the gutsier step of delivering a sustained critique of the left’s racial extremism, for instance, by explaining that America is not a “systemically racist” country and has not been for decades. He said little about the riots ripping through American cities. Even though the McCloskeys hail from his own state, Hawley has brought attention to their grossly unjust, racially-motivated persecution a mere handful of times.
In his recent New York Post piece, Hawley briefly brings up the “Karen” slur, without acknowledging it as a hateful racial slur directed at white women, who have become an acceptable racial target in modern America. Even in his own wheelhouse of targeting big tech, Hawley should have had easy fodder when Uber announced that its UberEats service would waive delivery fees only for black-owned restaurants. But Hawley said nothing.
The pattern is impossible to miss. While Hawley is certainly opposed to the left’s racial insanity, he has been a weak champion, afraid to stake out gutsy positions defending ordinary Americans from the hateful claim that they are bigoted racists benefiting from “privilege.”
Instead, when Hawley wants to look brave, he picks something safe. For the past two years, the senator has often seemed more interested in the rights of activists in Hong Kong and Uighurs in Xinjiang than he has in the rapidly-eroding rights of Americans in America. Hawley has introduced multiple pieces of legislation meant to promote the rights of far-off Chinese citizens. Searching “Hong Kong” on Hawley’s press page produces no fewer than twenty-five hits. In contrast, searching “free speech” only generates ten hits…and five of them are still about China. And of course, he tweets about China constantly, including at least ten times just since the November election (far more than he tweets about riots in America).
On this anniversary of #TiananmenSquareMassacre, I call on American corporations doing business and making $$ in #China to stand up against Beijing’s violent, illegal crackdown in Hong Kong. These co’s never hesitate to share political views in USA. They must take a stand now pic.twitter.com/bUNmj9QlYG
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 4, 2020
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) December 1, 2020
There’s nothing wrong with supporting freedom in China, of course. But right now, America doesn’t have the luxury of starting fights over freedom in China. The rights Americans take for granted are being destroyed right here at home. Besides making life for Hawley’s own voters much worse, this shift is making his advocacy for China pointless. As long as American freedoms are steadily in decline and Americans lose their rights to naked power grabs by a progressive hegemony, American criticisms of Chinese illiberalism look as pathetic as the USSR’s old denunciations of America. American soft power is only strong enough to promote freedom abroad when freedom is secure at home.
Revolver wants to be clear that these criticisms all come from a sympathetic position. There are many reasons to admire and be optimistic about Sen. Hawley. In the days after the Capitol riot, there was a brief push by the left to try expelling Hawley from the Senate entirely over his support for contesting November’s election results. Republicans like Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse signaled they might be happy to see an attempt. And the reason is obvious: Hawley is viewed as a threat.
Most of Hawley’s fellow Republicans in the Senate either failed to internalize the lessons of Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency in 2016, or they actively reject those lessons and hope to reverse them. Hawley is different. After being elected in 2018, he immediately became the most prominent Republican lawmaker promoting a more long-term populist posture for the party.
In December, Hawley was the most vocal Republican in calling for real stimulus checks of $2000. If the GOP had listened to him, it would probably still hold the Senate. If they’d adopted the idea before the election, Donald Trump would almost certainly still be president.
While many Republicans have come to realize the threat from Big Tech over the past five years, Hawley has been one of its most consistent and aggressive critics. He almost singlehanded transformed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from an arcane piece of regulatory trivia into a major national issue.
And while most of the Republican Party revolted against Trump to keep U.S. troops mired in the useless Afghanistan war, Hawley has long demanded the war’s end.
The same neoliberal globalist policies that gave us two decades of war in Afghanistan & Iraq also gave us ruinous trade policy that destroyed our industrial base. American working families paid the price in both cases
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 7, 2020
It’s not just about taking populist positions, though. Much of Hawley’s success as a lawmaker comes from his willingness to inject entirely new ideas into American discourse. While other Republicans have talked about breaking up big tech, Hawley has dared to ask bigger questions. Hawley has proposed banning some of the most addictive aspects of modern tech, and he’s even suggested that modern social media simply shouldn’t exist at all:
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has more than a little in common with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of the body’s most liberal members, when it comes to addressing the size and power of social media and tech giants.
But Hawley also posed a more existential question about advertising-based tech companies during a recent interview with NBC News: “Should these platforms exist at all?”
Like Warren, Hawley views the major companies as near monopolies and is open to the idea of using federal antitrust enforcement tools against them — but he told NBC News that Warren’s plan to break up Facebook, Google and Amazon might not go far enough in addressing the threat he thinks they pose to society.
“We should have a discussion about the business model of the social media platforms as they have evolved as an ad-supported business model that is pushing addiction and rewarding addiction,” Hawley said.
“If we broke Facebook up into 50 Facebooks who all pursued the same business model, would our lives, our economy, our society be measurably improved?” he continued. “I don’t know that they would.” [NBC News]
Hawley has been a very promising senator in his first two years. It’s no surprise that other genuine populists, like Tucker Carlson, are clearly supportive of his career. Many want him to run for president, though Hawley himself seems to realize those ambitions were gravely damaged by the Capitol Hill riot:
Sen. Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican who led efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, said he isn’t going to launch a White House bid in 2024.
“No, I’m not running,” Hawley told Insider in a brief hallway interview on Tuesday at the US Capitol before ducking into an elevator. He didn’t elaborate. [Business Insider]
It’s possible Hawley will change his mind of course and make a bid for the presidency sooner rather than later.
Should he reignite his presidential aspirations, he must learn from his recent trial by fire and understand that the Republican old guard will never love him as long as he is trying to lead the party in a populist direction, and the left will perpetually hate him for opposing them in any way. The character assassination campaign against Hawley over the Capitol incident means that he should abandon any hope of being a “respectable” figure in U.S. politics. So Hawley shouldn’t try to be respectable. He should embrace his role as a torch bearer of the increasingly popular anti-establishment sentiment in this country. He should become more intellectually daring, and become the chief and scathing critic of the disgusting sham America’s national government has become. Hawley should embrace the way the ruling class of both parties hate him, knowing that as America declines that hatred will become a badge of honor for more and more Americans.
Whatever his mistakes and shortcomings, the Republican Party needs Hawley right now. Hawley is one of the only Republicans standing against the establishment GOP effort to nullify the events of the past five years, and turn the GOP back into a neoliberal, interventionist party doomed to permanent minority status.
Josh Hawley has faced enormous pressure over the past two months. With any luck, it will harden him into a diamond.