How did U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) step on a path that led him to become pretty much the face of the U.S. Capitol riot? Hawley, under an ethics complaint from Senate Democrats, hardly seems chastened. He has written a New York Post op-ed denouncing the "muzzling" of right-wing voices.
How did Hawley reach this place? Some associates say they never saw it coming; others say they saw clear signs along the way. From an investigative piece at the Kansas City Star (pay wall):
Josh Hawley was a precocious 15-year-old in 1995, writing a regular column for his hometown paper, The Lexington News, when he was still in high school.
He used the early platform to opine on politics, culture and those he believed had been unfairly maligned by the media — among them anti-government militias and Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman.
Hawley warned against depicting all militia members as domestic terrorists after the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, including 19 children. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, who carried out the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, had ties to the Michigan Militia.
“Many of the people populating these movements are not radical, right-wing, pro-assault weapons freaks as they were originally stereotyped,” Hawley wrote two months after the bombing.
He argued that middle class Americans had gravitated to anti-government organizations out of genuine concerns about federal overreach and a disillusionment with mainstream politics.
“Dismissed by the media and treated with disdain by their elected leaders, these citizens come together and form groups that often draw more media fire as anti-government hate gatherings,” Hawley said.
“Feeling alienated from their government and the rest of society, they often become disenchanted and slip into talks of ‘conspiracy theories’ about how the federal government is out to get them.”
Hawley even defended Mark Fuhrman, from the O.J. era? That's a tough one to pull off:
Fuhrman, whose use of racial slurs came to light during the O.J. Simpson trial, was the victim of a new censoriousness that plagued the culture, in Hawley’s estimation.
“In this politically correct society, derogatory labels such as ‘racist’ are widely misused, and our ability to have open debate is eroding,” he wrote.
Twenty-six years later, the junior senator from Missouri is the face of the failed effort to overturn the 2020 election, captured in a photograph that shows him raising a fist in solidarity with a crowd of former President Donald Trump’s supporters shortly before they laid siege to the U.S. Capitol.
The insurrection left five people dead, including a police officer, after a mob made up of militia members and racists with Confederate flags and neo-Nazi paraphernalia stormed the Capitol. Their deadly rage was fueled by the election of President Joe Biden, whose victory was due in large part to Black voters.
Hawley's "out there" views might have been obscured because he checks a lot of academic and professional boxes. (See Lincoln Project video at the end of this post):
Prior to Jan. 6, Hawley had enjoyed an uninterrupted trajectory from Rockhurst High School valedictorian to the U.S. Senate — by way of Stanford University, Yale Law School, a clerkship for Chief Justice John Roberts and a brief tenure as Missouri attorney general.
Hawley, an evangelical Christian, has long championed the view that political leaders should be guided by their religious faith and that secularism runs counter to the country’s founding principles.
Hawley’s classmates at Yale Law School remember him as politically ambitious and a deeply religious conservative. But they say they witnessed a startling transformation when he railed against elites as a Senate candidate.
“Josh came across as decent and kind and thoughtful at Yale. Today he seems like a steaming mass of grievance,” said Ian Bassin, who attended Yale with Hawley before going on to work in the Obama White House and found the group Protect Democracy.
Bassin was one of 12 Yale Law alumni to sign a letter in 2018 warning that the Hawley they saw campaigning in Missouri was unrecognizable compared to the person they knew in school.