It’s time to STAND UP— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) January 2, 2021
So true. Thanks Josh! https://t.co/lacUQC6IHh— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2021
After four years of Donald Trump, I would like to think we have learned some important lessons about rightwing populism before blindly jumping on the Hawley 2024 bandwagon:
- Never take seriously again anyone who tells you they are “trusting the plan” and attacks you for asking questions and being skeptical of politicians and their “plans.”
- Rightwing populism is typically a combination of libertarianism, entertainment, paranoid conspiracy theories and political theater. It is usually hot air devoid of substance.
- Rightwing populism is typically used as a trick by opportunists to prey on the resentments of disaffected voters who are used to advance their own careers.
Granted, this is not always the case, but it tends to be the rule in American politics. Demagogues are the rule and true populists are the exception. The Tea Party and MAGA were both coopted by the GOP establishment and used to advance their own interests. Mitch McConnell used Donald Trump as a rubber stamp to get corporate tax cuts and pro-business judges before kicking him to the curb.
“As congressional coronavirus relief negotiations headed into a final December stretch, direct stimulus payments to the public looked to be on the cutting room floor. That’s when a mostly unsurprising group spoke up.
New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders both pressed for inclusion of the checks, as did the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Liberal leaders complaining a bill doesn’t spend enough? Dog bites man. But this time, the liberals were reinforced by an unlikely ally: a Republican senator. Missouri’s Josh Hawley demanded the inclusion of stimulus checks, saying he would “ gladly” work with Ocasio-Cortez on the task.
Hawley teamed up with Sanders to sponsor legislation that would provide those checks. While they couldn’t lasso the $1,200 checks they asked for, they did get $600 per adult and dependent child. ...
Even if right-wing populists do not succeed in taking over the GOP, they are slowly changing the party’s governing calculus. Increasingly, the party is under pressure, not just from the Left but also the Right, to adopt a more aggressive economic and corporate interventionism to champion workers.
The leader of that right-wing populist faction is Hawley. Even if Trump runs again in 2024, he’d be unlikely to get the deference of an incumbent and would thus have competition from the GOP’s emerging would-be leaders seeking to fill the vacuum that appears when a party loses the presidency. Hawley could be a real threat to Trump because he combines the outgoing president’s populism with a full-spectrum conservative worldview, political experience, a perch in the Senate, and relationships with his fellow lawmakers. If Trump doesn’t run, Hawley could make a serious play for inheriting Trump’s populist mantle outright. …
It’s unlikely that Mitch McConnell will tap Hawley to write party leadership’s policies. But he will continue to be heard loud and clear, reminding the GOP that sometimes, it’s more important to be attentive to the prophets of old than the profits of their corporate donors.”
I’m skeptical of Sen. Josh Hawley based on experience alone. Aside from his infamous tweet about being carried out on a slab for Israel, I have no reason to doubt or dislike the man.
So far, Josh Hawley has made a name for himself by taking up populist issues like social media censorship and the $2,000 stimulus checks. In both cases, he was the outlier in the Republican caucus where there was insufficient support to advance either issue. These were optical victories for Josh Hawley in establishing his populist credentials, but were still policy defeats for populist voters. Donald Trump was unable to overcome this resistance within the GOP to populism and Josh Hawley has to date shown no sign of being able to do so either even with these high stakes and the support of 81% of the American public.
Donald Trump’s mistake was that he didn’t understand the importance of utterly destroying his enemies and building a machine that had absolute loyalty to his presidency. This is what Huey Long did in Louisiana by crushing and trying to remove every judge and state legislator who opposed his agenda. Trump was content to be the “star” of his administration and preferred to delegate the work of governing the country to subordinates who were often his sworn enemies. He wasn’t an ideologue. Trump was just a narcissist who was content with being the center of national attention and his followers were content with his personality cult. They were content with “owning the libs epic style” and “trusting the plan.”
Josh Hawley plans to make another splash with Trump voters by objecting to the certification of the 2020 election results on January 6th. Ted Cruz and about a dozen other senators are joining him. This is why I think of Hawley as the master of optics. This is more of the same performance art politics. The last thing that we need is for Trump’s brand of reality television populism to continue.