Trump is the end, and the beginning.
Earlier this week I found myself reading about a Republican politician that I was instantly enthralled by, in the terrifying way one might be handling a glowing chunk of extraterrestrial metal that had fallen from the sky. This politician, not named Trump or McConnell or Rubio, appeared before us last week at the National Conservatism Conference and made a case for a future of blighted, bigoted anti-freedom, the likes of which the corporatist Koch-fueled right has been jonesing for for years but which has of yet, been unable to properly install inside the brains of the chimp-like figures running the show.
This politician’s name was Josh Hawley, the junior Senator from Missouri, and he spoke in a manner I’d not seen in years — perhaps ever — from a Republican lawmaker. Speaking with only a slight southern drawl and media trained to the point of naturalism, Hawley made easy work of the Case for American Nationalism that Donald Trump has been trying to make for years but whose meat-brained ways have turned off the more self aware amongst his party. Hawley used the words ‘great divide’ and spoke openly of an embrace of globalism — it was as if Trump had been re-programmed to be a 38 year old *actual* Ivy League graduate. The speech was both frightening and inspiring to witness — not in an uplifting way — but because Hawley represented the burgeoning new guard of a Republicanism that is just beginning to smolder under the rubble of Trump.
By this point it is clear that Donald Trump is a deeply flawed character of history who will either not live long enough to see himself become a meme of the “man” he was in 2016, or who will succumb to the justifiably enraged mobs in 2020. Either way Trumpism 1.0 is not long lived, despite the best intentions of bad actors on both sides of the aisle: it is too hot, too poisonous and too emotional. The question we must ask ourselves, however, is: what comes next? The rational side of this country has spent the past three years obsessing over Donald Trump to the point of (warranted) mania, but we have put little time into discussing or even considering four or eight or twelve years down the pike. What if the entree to this hate filled appetizer is someone with more brains, with more cunning, and with a deeper ideology than Mr. Me?
After watching Josh Hawley speak I can’t help but shiver at the notion that 2024 and 2028 aren’t that far off. Knowing the tendency of the left to punt on long-term grassroots organization in favor of immediate bi-partisan deal making, I wonder if perhaps we have already met the spiritual successor to the Prince of Tan. In this respect I am left wondering: who is our Josh Hawley?