How Josh Hawley Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Donald Trump

I’m not surprised that the two senators most zealously trying to undermine American democracy to score political points with Donald Trump’s base – Ted Cruz, Texas and Josh Hawley, Missouri – are trained lawyers. That’s because I know how they were trained. Cruz attended Harvard Law School (like me) and was a member of the Federalist Society (like me wasn’t). Hawley attended Yale Law School and was president of the Federalist Society of that school. Together with Senators Tom Cotton and Mike Lee from Arkansas and Utah, they form the “Federal Society Caucus. “I’ve met apocalyptic horsemen who are less destructive.

The Federalist Society is a well-funded group of lawyers advocating a legal ideology that runs counter to a pluralistic, tolerant, liberal society. The organization advocates a theory of constitutional interpretation known as originalism, which states that in almost all cases the drafters of the constitution agreed with republican-leaning interest groups (gun manufacturers, big corporations, evangelical Christians, bigots, etc.). Its members are essentially fringe warriors of the counterculture who, after being doused in the fairy dust of the Koch brothers, are magically turned into mainstream brokers. They are organized in law schools and promise prestige and power to the relatively few law students who are ready to argue versus Civil Rights and Social Equality, and they reward these students with fantastic employment opportunities across the Republican Legal Institute. Virtually every conservative lawyer of national importance is an active member of the Federal Society or is on good terms with the organization.

In recent years, their influence has grown so great that almost every Republican presidential candidate or Senate seat pledges to appoint or confirm judges of the Federal Society. They use this promise as a whistle to signal to voters that they are against women’s rights, minority rights and LGBTQ rights without having to commit to reverse the achievements of the civil rights era through unpopular laws. This is partly because it seemed implausible to win a statewide or national office based solely on conservative extremism on standard issues (though disguised as trolling for constitutional concerns).

See you Donald Trump.

Trump has shown in two elections that there are still enough whites in this country to win a national election on a platform of white pride and “own the libraries”. Trump won in 2016 by offering a mix of white male patriarchy and economic populism, not delivering populism, and then getting even more votes for the second time, despite leading a pandemic that killed 350,000 Americans. He was only defeated (and he was defeated) by a fundamental wave of opposition, not by his politics (which is pretty standard Republican politics and cannot be told otherwise by any of these Lincoln Project folks), but by his personality. Crime and incompetence.

But Trump provided a template on how to lean into white cultural grievances and use them to foment a comprehensive attack on diversity, tolerance and pluralism within a liberal democracy. The Senate riders of the Federal Society noticed it.


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