Why is Josh Hawley So Annoying?

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at the Washington Hilton on June 21, 2024 in Washington, DC. The conservative Christian group is hosting a... WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at the Washington Hilton on June 21, 2024 in Washington, DC. The conservative Christian group is hosting a series of congressional members and political candidates to speak on the upcoming 2024 elections. Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump will deliver the keynote address later this weekend. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) may be one of the most self-conscious politicians around today. Even for preening politicians, even in an era where we all walk around with a transmitter that allows us to express our thoughts to the world, there’s something about Hawley that makes every action seem calculated, made both to meet the expectations of the room he’s in and play on its resentments. 

Take this statement, made Monday evening at the NatCon (National Conservatism) conference in D.C. 

Brave. Okay. 

But what makes Hawley’s pretense here so cloying? 

It’s partly the context.

NatCon conferences began in 2019, devoted to exploring, spreading, and filling out ideas that it describes as national conservatism: an attempt to use the state to implement policies based in strict interpretations of Christianity, and one which openly rejects the libertarian strain on the right. A coterie of organizations and people on the political right, some well-known and others obscure, back the conferences. They include The Claremont Institute, the Heritage Foundation (of Project 2025 fame), and others. 

The list of speakers at the conference reads like a Who’s-Who catalogue of this segment of the right. It includes John Eastman, the conservative attorney-turned-2020 coup plotter; Doug Wilson, an Idaho pastor who has advocated for blasphemy laws is here; Trump adviser Stephen Miller is slated to appear; as is Reza Pahlavi, crown prince of Iran. 

The conferences also unite some of the transatlantic trends in conservative thought that have emerged in recent years. Various people associated with Hungarian illiberalism came to the event, ostensibly to exchange tips and ideas. But just before Hawley spoke, a representative of the European right’s other success – Poland – gave an address.

It was Ryszard Legutko, a member of the European Parliament and author of “The Demon in Democracy,” who came to receive NatCon’s first-ever “Beaconsfield Prize.” Legutko made his name in part for his opposition to gay marriage, but also for his insistence that liberal Democracy bears striking similarities to Communist totalitarianism. 

His ideas have become influential among the national conservative right. Take right-wing writer, shampoo mogul, and SACR member Charles Haywood’s January 19, 2017 review of Legutko’s book. He synthesizes the book’s relevance in the following manner: 

“It’s not that Donald Trump has, or British voters have, absorbed and endorsed philosophies that oppose liberal-democracy,” Haywood wrote. “Rather, they have seen that the Emperor has no clothes—that liberal-democracy is a bad deal for them and for society.”

In a sense, we’re all in agreement: this movement is about opposing liberal Democracy. There’s no debate — it’s about eroding it and, potentially, replacing it. 

That’s the context in which to hear Hawley. His audience isn’t people tut-tutting in the rafters; rather, it’s those who want exactly what he’s selling. 

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Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for jtx jtx says:

    It is in his DNA?

  2. I said it before, I’ll say it again:

    His whole statement here plays very well in Missouri. It probably won’t play well anywhere else. He’s in a bubble of Red State Christendom and they are all for it there.

    He’ll be overwhelmingly re-elected, with or without opposition. The issue now is to find something on him that takes him out of the mix and/or highlights the hypocrisy of his philosophy.

  3. Josh, Nicole… given the average life expetency in this country… newborn babies ain’t got that kinda time.

  4. I thought it was mostly down to the same chicken-neck syndrome Tom Cotton has.

    (In other news – are you all here through the back door? Getting a bit old.)

  5. Yup.

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