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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

September 18: Josh Hawley No Fit Defender of the Constitution

In the back-and-forth over Kavanaugh and other SCOTUS-related talk this week, I saw the name of a senator weighing in that make the bile rise, so I wrote about it at New York:

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of the lurch toward impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh that some Democrats made over the weekend. And I’m at least ambivalent about the court-packing schemes that Pete Buttigieg and others have embraced. But in both cases we don’t need any lectures from Republican officeholders about respect for precedents involving the judicial branch — not unless they are willing to admit their party denied President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland the hearings and confirmation vote he deserved.

And of all the Republicans who need to keep a low profile on this issue, I’d put Missouri’s young semi-theocratic Senator Josh Hawley near the top of my list. Yet here he is telling The Hill he’s terrified for the Constitution:

“’You know, they want to impeach Justice Kavanaugh, they want to pack the Supreme Court, I mean talk about destroying any institution they can’t control. It’s really unbelievable. This is a Democrat party that increasingly is at war with the American constitution,’ Hawley said.”

Last time I looked, both impeachment of judges and Congress’ power to regulate the size of the federal courts were right there in the constitution. I’m sure Hawley, a Yale Law School grad and a very bright boy, knows that. So maybe he is referring to that hazy concept, the spirit of the constitution?

“'[Democrats are] willing to destroy an entire branch of government, the independent judiciary; they want to destroy it why? Because it won’t rule the way they want it too. I mean is there anything more dangerous to constitutional government than that way of thinking.'”

I dunno, senator. I’d say this way of thinking is pretty inimical to constitutional government, too:

“Scripture teaches that political government is mandated by God for his service and is one means by which the enthroned Christ carries out his rule….

“These things together tell us something quite important about what government is for, and what Christians should be trying to do with it and with politics. Government serves Christ’s kingdom rule; this is its purpose. And Christians’ purpose in politics should be to advance the kingdom of God — to make it more real, more tangible, more present.”

That was Hawley in 2012. If that’s too long ago to be considered relevant (I don’t think it is, at all), there’s this reflection on constitutional liberty from a speech he made earlier this year:

“Perhaps the most eloquent contemporary statement of Pelagian freedom appears in an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, in a passage written by former Justice Anthony Kennedy. In 1992, in a case called Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, he wrote this: ‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.’

“It’s the Pelagian vision. Liberty is the right to choose your own meaning, define your own values, emancipate yourself from God by creating your own self. Indeed, this notion of freedom says you can emancipate yourself not just from God but from society, family, and tradition.”

I’d say treating the idea of individual liberty as the devilish reflection of an ancient heresy professing the perfectibility of human nature is more than a little hostile to the spirit of the constitution.

Perhaps a clue to Hawley’s strange attitude on this subject is that he likes to use the self-identifying label of “constitutional conservative.” This particular code-term, which was briefly in fashion at the height of the Tea Party Movement, is actually pretty radical, as I explained in 2014:

“It basically holds that a governing model of strictly limited (domestic) government that is at the same time devoted to the preservation of ‘traditional culture’ is the only legitimate governing model for this country, now and forever, via the divinely inspired agency of the Founders. That means democratic elections, the will of the majority, the need to take collective action to meet big national challenges, the rights of women and minorities, the empirical data on what works and what doesn’t–all of those considerations and more are so much satanic or ‘foreign’ delusions that can and must be swept aside in the pursuit of a Righteous and Exceptional America.”

That sounds like Josh Hawley, all right, who in 2018 had this to say about his wicked country:

“Excerpts of an audio tape have leaked of Hawley speaking to a conclave of Christian-right activists in December that’s more than a little out there, blaming the scourge of human trafficking on the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s. Sexual freedom leads to sexual slavery, he explained.

“’It ends in the slavery and exploitation of young women. It will destroy our families,’ he said, per the Kansas City Star. ‘You know what I’m talking about, the 1960s, 1970s, it became commonplace in our culture among our cultural elites, Hollywood, and the media, to talk about, to denigrate the biblical truth about husband and wife, man and woman.'”

Yes, that’s the sort of thinking that has made Hawley the poster boy for a sinister sort of post-Trumpian conservatism that tends to pursue authoritarian means to achieving its godly ends.

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