Alex Shephard observes that as prospective presidential candidates go Josh Hawley is the Rand Paul of Jeb Bushes:
The footage was especially cutting because of its interplay with another moment. One of the many infamous images to come from January 6, 2021, is of Hawley raising a fist to the crowd that would soon storm the Capitol. It was a gesture of solidarity; the rioters were there, in many ways, because of Hawley, who was the first senator to pledge to dispute the certification of the election results. One of the most ambitious members of Congress, Hawley was betting that his efforts to dispute, and perhaps overturn, a legitimate and lawful election would pay dividends in the near future. A month later, he would become the only Republican to vote against every single one of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees. He was staking a claim to the future of Donald Trump’s political movement—a claim that he was hoping would come due soon, either in 2024 or in the next presidential election.
Eighteen months later, however, Hawley’s big gamble has shown little signs of paying off: He barely registers as a figure of national consequence. No one is looking to him as the leader of anything, let alone the Republican Party. In February, he received 0.2 percent of the vote when the Conservative Political Action Conference held its annual presidential straw poll. Former Vice President Mike Pence, a reviled figure in GOP circles, received five times as many votes, though both lagged far behind Trump—and, to a lesser extent, the current front-runner to succeed him, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Hawley’s larger goal has been to take the authoritarian strongman mantle from Trump—or at least to inherit it. And on that point, he has failed miserably. The “techlash” has sputtered on both the left and the right, but particularly on the right. Trump’s frequent complaints about “shadowbanning” and other “censorship” from tech companies have largely fallen out of favor as other boogeymen have proven more politically potent. Those who were complaining about Twitter and Facebook are now talking about trans athletes and “critical race theory” and Disney. Hawley, of course, is one of them. But he’s only one among many.
That hasn’t stopped him from continuing to try to place himself at the center of the new right. Speaking at the conservative group Turning Points USA’s Student Action Summit on Friday, Hawley insisted he had no regrets about the role he played in the violent assault on the Capitol. “I just want to say to all of those liberals out there and the liberal media, just in case you haven’t gotten the message yet, I do not regret it, and I am not backing down,” Hawley said, striking a belligerent note. “I’m not going to apologize, I’m not going to cower, I’m not going to run from you, I’m not going to bend a knee.” It was a poor choice of words—footage of him running like a coward from rioters he had helped to whip into a frenzy was already everywhere. Hawley, by the way, wasn’t even listed as a candidate on TPUSA’s straw poll.
Hawley wasn’t wrong to think that fascism was the path forward in the Republican Party. He wasn’t even wrong to think that “world-historically smarmy forensics club dork” wouldn’t be disqualifying. But there are Republican public officials who have both but also have some measure of charisma, and Hawley just don’t have it. Sadly, even the anti-anti Trump “left” has a new idol now:
Outflanked by Alex Jones! Sad. Anyway, I see that the Milius family tradition is being proudly carried on by the next generation.