Hartmann: Insurrectionist Josh Hawley Builds His Brand

Senator Josh Hawley scores political points at the expense of Missouri and the country.
Senator Josh Hawley scores political points at the expense of Missouri and the country. TOM HELLAUER

The noted political website FiveThirtyEight published a ranking last week to address the question, “Does your member of Congress vote with or against Biden?”

Guess what? Missouri Senator Josh Hawley occupied 100th place among 100 senators in support of President Joe Biden. Hawley can proudly proclaim that he has voted against the president more than any other senator thus far in 2021.

This is fitting: Hawley also ranks second to none as an insurrectionist. History will never forget Hawley’s treasonous decision to challenge Biden’s legitimate election before January 6 at a time no other senator seemed so inclined.

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No one did more to abet Donald Trump’s effort to overthrow American democracy than Josh Hawley. He lit the fire, so why not continue to oppose the president whose small-D democratic election he tried to reject?

By contrast, Senator Roy Blunt ranked far toward the other end of the spectrum. Blunt voted with the president 63.6 percent of the time — eighth highest among the 50 GOP senators — as opposed to Hawley’s last-place ranking of 11.4 percent support of Biden’s positions.

It is a sign of the times that you won’t be hearing Blunt promote that distinction publicly. In fact, it’s a bit surprising that Hawley has not already made a major fundraising splash out of his singular intransigence.

The FiveThirtyEight ranking for senators provides a snapshot of bipartisanship, not an ideological barometer. The 60 votes it measured included 21 presidential nominations; this wasn’t focused upon legislative policy, where party lines mostly hold. Hawley took glee early on in carving out his own lane of senatorial spite in slandering many Biden appointees.

Hawley was one of just two Republican senators to oppose the nomination of Secretary of Defense Lloyd James Austin. Yes, that would be two as in 93-to-2 for one of the most critical selections on the list. Nice message to the military.

Hawley stood out among fractional minorities of Republican senators in opposing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (approved 86-13), Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack (92-7), Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (84-15), SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman (81-17), Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (84-15), Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough (87-7), Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (78-22) and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (84-10).

Blunt, on the other hand, voted in favor of every single one of those nominees as part of a substantial majority of Republican senators. Respecting the President’s prerogative to name his governing team in most (albeit not all) instances seems one of the few vestiges of bipartisanship remaining in the Senate.

That, of course, does not apply to the likes of Hawley. He hadn’t had this much fun since he was ripping the wings off butterflies as a child.

And let’s not forget Hawley’s singular achievement, his fitting stature as the only senator — as in a 94-1 vote — to oppose the anti-Asian hate crimes bill in April. Rather than at least have the decency to admit that he opposed the measure because he didn’t like the optics of standing against hatred of Asian Americans in connection with COVID-19, Hawley offered some outlandish lie not worth repeating.

Remember, 43 fellow Republicans voted to support this bill and the six others who couldn’t bring themselves to become associated with the toxic phrase “anti-hate” at least managed to sit the thing out. Not Hawley, that proud anti-China warrior who has raised his voice against the noxious regime every time except those fifteen instances when Trump praised its response to the COVID-19 epidemic or that special moment when the wannabe orange tyrant praised Xi Jinping for anointing himself dictator for life.

Nastiness to foes is a cornerstone of Hawley’s brand. Hawley craves the mantle of heir apparent to Trump’s faux populism and much of that is driven by stoking divisiveness, especially by personally attacking political enemies.

Like the master, Hawley is 100 percent inauthentic. As noted in this space, Hawley represents the quintessential phony: the son of a well-to-do rural banker who loves to leave followers with the false impression that he grew up as some hardscrabble farm kid.

Educated in elite private schools, Hawley’s political invention of himself as a man of the people has relied on an unending stream of deception, except maybe for that time his maiden speech in the Senate warned of “cosmopolitan elites” — an unmistakable anti-Semitic trope that got the attention of Semites. But try as he might, Hawley cannot pretend to match Trump’s world-class supremacy as a con artist. Maybe someday Hawley can get there, but for now he is most noteworthy as the senatorial equivalent of nails scratching down the chalkboard.

Hawley can brandish his bona fides as an enemy of bipartisanship. No matter how one regards Biden politically, there is little debate that he is a traditionalist, a man obsessed with returning America to a time when politics and governance could coexist with some semblance of civility.

That hasn’t worked out so well — the bipartisan infrastructure bill a heady exception — in no small part thanks to lean-and-hungry, unprincipled men like Hawley. Bottom line: The President will need to find a way to part with some Senate traditions unless he wants to allow Republicans to cheat their way into control of Congress in 2022.

To that end, Democrats might try embracing Hawley’s iconic raised fist of January 6 as much as he has. Hawley embodies the soullessness of his hijacked political party — in all of its abandonment of any semblance of principle — and the fact that he stands last in FiveThirtyEight’s measure of bipartisanship is not insignificant.

Hawley ranked a full 5.7 percent lower than fellow insurrectionist and human species embarrassment Ted Cruz of Texas, who was tied for the title “second least bipartisan senator” with Senator Rick Scott of Florida. That’s something worth noting, and not just by Hawley.

“But for him it never would have happened,” former Senator Jack Danforth — Hawley’s self-described Dr. Frankenstein — said of him shortly after the January 6 riot. In fairness, that might not be certain now, based upon what since has been revealed about Trump’s furious and concerted efforts to overthrow the legitimately elected American government before it could take office.

But it’s still fitting for Hawley to garner recognition as an enemy of bipartisanship. It’s not just anyone who history will remember in the same sentence with Benedict Arnold.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).

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