An obscure US Senator named Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) showed he could be the future of the Republican Party with one speech.
“For all intents and purposes, it abandons the idea of the republic altogether,” Hawley says of America’s ruling class. Essentially, Hawley accuses America’s political, business, academic, intellectual, financial, and cultural elites of no longer believing in democracy, patriotism, or America itself.
“In its place, the leadership class have tried to build a new state in their own image, one that exists cut off from our history, separate from our shared beliefs—beyond borders and beyond belonging,” Hawley theorizes.
Interestingly, Hawley made the remarks at an obscure gathering of intellectuals called the National Conservatism Conference on 18 July 2019. The Conference in Washington is a gathering of right-wing intellectuals who are trying to construct an intellectual and philosophical framework for Trumpism.
Are Republicans are becoming more like Democrats?
Predictably, the mainstream media ignored Hawley’s speech, but it startled those pundits who paid attention.
For instance, Damon Linker; a left-wing writer at The Week, muses “Republicans are becoming more like Democrats.” Linker states, “the real subject of Hawley’s talk is class” and he is right.
Hawley’s real argument is that America is under the control of an arrogant, self-interested, self-absorbed, and self-righteous ruling class. Moreover, that ruling class no longer cares about America or average Americans.
“If Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren delivered those lines, no one would have thought twice,” Linker notes. “But coming from a Republican, it signals a remarkable — and heartening — shift of assumptions and priorities in a small-r republican direction.”
Is Hawley a Leftist?
US Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) are prominent left-wing Democratic presidential candidates.
In addition, Sanders is an admirer of radical Marxist MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. Sanders calls Chomsky “a very vocal and important voice in the wilderness of intellectual life in America” in this YouTube video.
Chomsky’s basic thesis is that a wealthy elite manipulates the media to control public opinion for selfish reasons. Judging by his remarks, I think Hawley buys into at least some of Chomsky’s ideas.
Hawley is in Keeping with Republican Traditions
Strangely, Hawley’s speech is well within Republican traditions. For instance, it sounds a great deal like President Theodore Roosevelt’s (R-New York) famous “New Nationalism” address.
“To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day,” Roosevelt said at Osawatomie, Kansas, on September 1, 1910.
“Because an economy driven by money changing on Wall Street ultimately benefits those who have the money to start with, and that economy will not support a great nation,” Hawley said at the National Conservatism conference.
Hawley vs. the Corrupt Elite
Hawley is far more philosophical and culturalist than TR. But his message is the same as Teddy’s; a corrupt and arrogant elite that does not care about average people controls the government and the economy.
Importantly, Hawley quotes TR in his effort to establish his populist credentials. “Theodore Roosevelt once wrote that “the Roman Republic fell” when “the sturdy Roman plebeian, who lived by his own labor, [and] who voted without reward according to his own convictions” ceased to exist. Our present-day leaders seem determined to repeat the experiment,” Hawley says.
Thus, Hawley is well within the traditions of the Republican Party. Notably he is trying to revive Theodore Roosevelt’s ideas of patriotism and nationalism. In addition, I detect more than a whiff of US Senator Robert A. Taft’s (R-Ohio) isolationism and cultural conservatism in Hawley’s remarks.
Will Republicans Pay Attention to Hawley?
Josh Hawley is a refreshing figure who is making some interesting observations. In particular, he is young (39 born in 1979 two years after 20th Century Fox released Star Wars) and very intellectual.
I cannot imagine the Republican leadership; or the party’s rank-and-file membership, accepting Hawley. The Republican establishment is too addicted to Big Money and too subservient to those who dispense the cash to change. Meanwhile, the Grand Old Party’s (GOP) base worships the corrupt elitist President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) and his lifestyle of the rich and famous.
In fact, I think Hawley just put himself on a collision course with both Trump and the Koch brothers. To elaborate, Trump is a charter member of the “cosmopolitan ruling class” Hawley attacks. Meanwhile, his speech denigrates the Koch’s brothers’ radical libertarian philosophy of no restrictions on capital, trade, behavior, or business.
Josh Hawley does not Go Far Enough
Strangely, my biggest complaint about Josh Hawley is that his critique does not go far enough.
After correctly identifying the arrogant, corrupt, parasitical, and selfish leadership that is destroying and disrupting America, Hawley fails to criticize the system that empowers that class. Instead of asking how and why that class got its power, Hawley offers clichés about the greatness of America.
Unlike TR, Hawley offers no economic program or suggestions behind a few platitudes about “good jobs” and hints of protectionism. His only economic policy suggestion is; “trade policies that put American workers first, that prioritize them over cheap goods from abroad, that encourage the real production of real things here, and not just arbitrage schemes by the great corporations.”
In other words, the economic program of President Herbert Hoover (R-California) that made the Great Depression worse. Instead, of social programs Hoover tried to “fix” the depression with high tariffs that made the situation worse.
Sorry GOP, Josh Hawley is no Theodore Roosevelt
In contrast to Hoover and Hawley, Theodore Roosevelt offered an innovative and disruptive program of radical suggestions in his New Nationalism. Some suggestions in TR’s 1912 third-party Bull Moose presidential platform include:
- A National Health Service to include all existing government medical agencies (In modern parlance Medicare for All).
- Social insurance, to provide for the elderly, the unemployed, and the disabled.
- Limited injunctions in strikes.
- A minimum wage law for women.
- An eight-hour workday.
- A federal securities commission.
- Farm relief.
- Workers’ compensation for work-related injuries.
- An inheritance tax.
- A Constitutional amendment to allow a Federal income tax.
Many of these ideas became part of Teddy’s cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (D-New York) 1930s New Deal and are echoed by Liz Warren today. Notably, FDR beat Hoover in the 1932 presidential election.
Sadly, Hawley offers nothing like TR’s program in his speech. Nor does he address some of the greatest threats to America; including climate change, endless war, income inequality, and technological unemployment. Though, Hawley hints at income inequality.
I think Theodore Roosevelt would lead the battle against Climate Change and income inequality; and promoting radical solutions like the basic income, if he were alive today. Despite his eloquence, I think Hawley lacks the courage to make such vital stands.
Is Josh Hawley a Hypocrite?
Finally, I believe Theodore Roosevelt would challenge the corrupt elitist Republicans placed in the White House. When Republican President William H. Taft (R-Ohio) deviated from the progressive nationalist agenda, TR challenged him in the 1912 presidential election.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Matthew 7:3 New International Version.
Thus, if Hawley is serious about “protecting Middle America” from the corrupt elite he must challenge Donald J. Trump. Therefore, Hawley must oppose Trump’s reelection, and if necessary challenge the Donald in the primary.
National Conservatives Must Oppose Trump
If Hawley refuses to take on Trump; or worse endorses the Donald’s reelection, he is nothing but a hypocrite. Additionally, Hawley’s speech is meaningless rhetoric if he does not oppose Trump.
Indeed, there is a strong stench of hypocrisy coming from the whole National Conservative project. Until the National Conservatives clean their own filthy house, no sane American has any business listening to them.
The battle against corrupt elitism must begin now and start within the Republican Party and its presidential primary. Failure to oppose Trump will doom the National Conservationism project to failure.
Is it the Beginning of the End for Republicans?
Therefore, Hawley’s speech does not end an era for Republicans or conservatives. However, in Sir Winston S. Churchill’s words: “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Unfortunately, I do not know what Hawley’s speech is beginning, or ending, only that it signifies a new direction for the Republican Party. I have no clue where that direction will lead. Although I think it will lead to a place neither the Koch brothers nor Trump will like.