Senator Josh Hawley’s dream — that the Donald Trump movement could be recapitulated, except with Josh Hawley as the president — suffered a serious injury over the past week. Hawley had positioned himself as an heir to Trump’s authoritarian movement, only for that movement to fall into sudden and deep disrepute when a violent mob, egged on by Trump, Hawley, and others, sacked the Capitol.
Now Hawley is looking to repair the damage. He has written a short column explaining why he continued to support Trump’s efforts to cancel the presidential election and secure an unelected second term, even after the insurrection.
If Hawley had been planning to deliver a bloodthirsty speech endorsing worldwide jihadist terror on September 11, 2001, and been interrupted by Al Qaeda’s attack, by Hawley-ian logic, the brave choice would be to deliver the speech anyway. (Obviously, this is a hypothetical case: Hawley would never endorse theocratic extremism, at least not theocratic extremism by a different religion than his own.)
Hawley argues that he was acting wisely and responsibly by questioning the validity of Joe Biden’s victory, because many of his constituents believe the election was stolen:
Many, many citizens in Missouri have deep concerns about election integrity. For months, I heard from these Missourians — writing, calling my office, stopping me to talk. They want Congress to take action to see that our elections at every level are free, fair, and secure. They have a right to be heard in Congress. And as their representative, it is my duty to speak on their behalf.
It is true that many Missourians believe Trump’s lies about the election. One reason is that people like Hawley keep lying to them. It was obvious from the beginning that the Republican strategy of refusing to contradict Trump’s claims that he actually won would lead his supporters to demand that Republicans follow through on this belief. Why, after all, would or should they accept a stolen election?
Hawley, however, does not draw any line between the belief and the actions it produced. Instead, in his narrative, a violent mob suddenly appears, out of nowhere:
Some wondered why I stuck with my objection following the violence at the Capitol. The reason is simple: I will not bow to a lawless mob, or allow criminals to drown out the legitimate concerns of my constituents.
So this violent mob showed up for no apparent reason. And since the mob had no goal, or at least no goal Hawley wishes to discuss here, Hawley decides its goal must have been to stop Josh Hawley.
But Hawley won’t let them! He defies the mob by continuing his efforts to delegitimize Biden’s election on behalf of Trump’s autogolpe. This is in fact the exact course of action the mob wanted Hawley and his colleagues to take, but no matter. The essence of Hawley is that anything he does is always a brave act of defiance against powerful forces. If he finds himself supporting powerful forces he cannot justify to his audience — a position Hawley often occupies — he will simply pretend that the powerful forces he’s serving are his enemies.