ST. LOUIS – The white nationalist and neo-fascist brain trust (yes, there is such a thing) supporting President Donald Trump held a conference last week about Trumpism after Trump, and from their choice of a keynote speaker, they seem to have decided that the best choice for continuing Trump’s policies is Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley.
Eric Columbus, former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, watched Hawley’s speech and concluded: “A bit like a Trump 2016 primary speech if Trump was an intellectual who didn’t talk about himself and lacked all sense of humor.”
Unlike Trump, who, like most sociopaths, doesn’t believe in anything but himself and isn’t interested in anything but his own profit, Hawley actually believes in “Christian” nationalism and an interpretation of America based less on Thomas Jefferson than on Benito Mussolini.
Hawley strenuously believes in an apocalyptic “end times” version of fundamentalist Christianity. He believes in a gospel that has nothing to do with Christians such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and everything to do with the nationalist religious “philosophy” of Jerry Falwell Jr.
But before we get to how Hawley channeled his inner fascist at the National Conservatism Congress in D.C. last week, why its participants think he will make a dandy president of the United States, and what might happen if that ever occurred, it’d be good to remember what we know about Hawley already.
Hawley, elected Missouri Attorney General in 2016, lied smoothly and convincingly when he said he was uninterested in holding any office except that of Missouri A.G. Telegenic and angular, Hawley, a Stanford and Yale grad, wrote one more book than Donald Trump has read, a “Christian” interpretation of Teddy Roosevelt.
Hawley is a committed right-winger who was president of the Yale chapter of the uber-conservative Federalist Society. He and then-Gov. Eric Greitens gladly signed on to an effort by 19 other GOP states to overturn the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, and toss out its guarantee that insurance companies couldn’t deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.
During Hawley’s 2018 Senate campaign against Claire McCaskill, he again lied repeatedly, claiming he would “save” the pre-existing condition mandate through unspecified legislation. The lawsuit to get rid of the Affordable Care Act is still pending, but as has been the case for almost a decade, neither he nor anyone else in the GOP has introduced any legislation at all to replace it without ripping insurance coverage away from millions of Americans.
But if you want a peek under the hood of Hawley’s religious extremism, go back to 2012, to an essay he wrote for a religious blog called Patheos. In it, Hawley says, “Isn’t immanentizing the eschaton precisely what Christian citizens should be doing?”
“Immanentizing” means “to make something immanent or immediate”; “the eschaton” means “the final event of the divine plan, the end of the world.” Hawley was arguing that “Christian” citizens should do everything they could to speed up the arrival of the “end times,” so the final battle between good and evil can be waged, believers will be transported skyward in the Rapture, and the non-believers will either be left behind on a burning Earth or sent to hell.
Anyway, fast forward to last week in the nation’s capital, when Hawley gave the nationalists at the National Conservatism Congress red meat by borrowing an infamous phrase from the Nazis’ Third Reich.
“It’s time we ended this cosmopolitan experiment and recovered the promise of our republic,” Hawley gravely intoned. “Let’s start with this: America is not going to become the rest of the world.”
Delivered about the same time as Trump’s racist Tweets aimed at four non-white Congresswomen, and just before the chants of “Send them back” became Trump’s unofficial 2020 campaign slogan, Hawley’s dog whistle aimed at immigrants might be open to interpretation if it weren’t for one word: “cosmopolitan.”
Josh Hawley is many things, but he is neither stupid nor ignorant of history. In a country where “cosmopolitan” refers either to a cocktail or a magazine, his use of the word was aimed straight at his audience of extreme right-wing nationalist “intellectuals,” all of whom, like him, knew exactly what he meant.
The word “cosmopolitan” was first used as a pejorative by Julius Streicher, editor and publisher of an anti-Semitic Nazi Party newspaper in Germany called Der Sturmer. Streicher needed a synonym to describe German Jews who weren’t nationalist enough but who, instead, “corrupted” Nazi Germany with “degenerate foreign influences.” The word “cosmopolitan” became so popular that Adolph Hitler’s propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels, picked it up.
History has yet to judge Hawley on policies connected to that word, but it did judge Streicher, who was found guilty of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg War Tribunals and was hanged on October 16, 1946.
No one knows what might happen if the National Conservatism Congress got its wish, and Hawley became president sometime in the next decade, but we can guess.
The walling off of America from the rest of the world, started under Trump, would accelerate. Less technocrat than theocrat, Hawley would encourage the United States to be more formally defined as a “Christian” nation.
The U.S. would retreat from world affairs, while conceivably “encouraging” non-Christians to “go back to where they came from.” As the same rabid nationalism swept the rest of the world, Europe would fragment into Balkanized states, just as it did before World War I, when 20 million people ended up dead.
China’s sweeping state-run internationalism would spread Beijing’s influence from Mexico and Morocco to Myanmar and Mauritania. As tension rose, the first shot would be fired, somewhere, maybe by Israel, or North Korea, or France, or Russia, or any other nuclear nation.
And because the U.S. had withdrawn behind hyper-“Christian” nationalist borders, and wouldn’t react with either diplomacy or low-level military force to prevent escalation, America could be forced to use its nuclear arsenal to prevent major trade disruption. And somebody would respond.
So President Hawley could end up ruling over the rubble of a white Christian America. But at least he would have succeeded in immanentizing the eschaton.
Of course, none of that may ever happen. But the mere fact that Hawley’s rhetoric and policies might conceivably make it possible should be terrifying.