Originally posted on May 22, 2019.
In The American Conservative, James Pinkerton analyzes the first speech to the Senate of Senator Josh Hawley, who Pinkerton calls “a new kind of Republican.” Pinkerton says Hawley is a “senator from Main Street.” America needs Main Street focused conservative leaders. I have been discussing the breakdown of America’s families, farms, and Main Streets for years.
Outside the pages of The American Conservative and some other reliable publications, there seems to be little recognition of the collapse of America’s rural interior. Every year Americans are having more trouble building a life in the places where they grew up. It is about time someone in the Senate was paying attention. Pinkerton writes (abridged):
Josh Hawley, elected to the Senate from Missouri last year, was born on December 31, 1979. As such, he is the youngest sitting U.S. senator.
In his so-called “maiden speech,” delivered on the floor of the Senate on May 15, Hawley spoke with the coiled energy of a reformer, the intense passion of a muckraker, and the Trumanesque bluntness of a Show-Me Stater.
In his address, he offered no defense of the status quo and nary a word about his fellow Republicans—no ode to President Donald Trump nor paean to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He didn’t insult them; he simply didn’t mention them.
Instead, Hawley used his quick 14 minutes to strike a stark tone on other topics. He used the word “despair”—as in the feelings of ordinary people—four times. He used the word “middle”—as in middle class or middle America—nine times, a typical formulation being “middle America [is] under siege.” He used the words “work” and “workers”—as in “we need a society that puts American workers first, that prioritizes them over cheap goods from abroad”—15 times.
And he was equally detailed and dire about the culprits. He used the word “aristocrat,” or a derivation thereof, five times, and “elite” 10 times.
Just as interesting were the words not found in Hawley’s speech. Unheard was that staple of Republican platforming, “taxes”—not a peep about raising them, nor about lowering them. Nor did he mention “debt,” “deficit,” “spending,” “Constitution,” or “federalism.” Also unmentioned: “Reagan,” “Bush,” “terror,” “Iraq,” and “Iran.”
On the other hand, Hawley went into detail about the “drug addiction” that has “flooded our streets and our homes,” name-checking heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, meth, and marijuana.
He put it all together in a sharp critique of contemporary America. “Over the last 40 years, our economy has worked best for those at the top: the wealthy, the well-educated,” he charged. “If you have a job in Silicon Valley or an expensive and prestigious degree, this economy has worked for you. And Washington has focused on how to get more people to join this elite.”
“If you want a life built around the place where you grew up, if your ambition is not to start a tech business but to join the family business, to serve in the PTA or in your local church, well, you’re told that you’re not a success,” he exclaimed. “And you’re told that you’re on your own.”
Warming to his theme of righteous indignation, Hawley said of such systematized injustice: “This is no accident. The people who make the rules now, who run our large corporations, who set the tone for our popular culture, all belong to the same class. This economy has been their economy. They made it for themselves.”
Read more here.