Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri took to the Senate floor Wednesday morning for his first floor speech, decrying the Republican party’s sclerotic reliance on Reagan-era free-market orthodoxy and advocating a populist move toward the “great American middle.”
Channeling the anti-elitist current that swept President Trump into the Oval Office, Hawley lambasted America’s academics, media figures, video-game designers, financiers, entertainers, and pharmaceutical executives, casting them as uncaring “aristocrats” who have chosen profit over patriotism time and time again, for decades.
“Today’s society benefits those who shaped it, and it has been shaped not by working men and women, but by the aristocratic elite,” he said, reading from prepared remarks obtained by National Review. “Big banks, big tech, big multi-national corporations, along with their allies in the academy and media — these are the aristocrats of our age. They live in the United States, but they consider themselves citizens of the world. They operate businesses or run universities here, but their primary loyalty is elsewhere, to their own agenda for a more unified, progressive — and profitable — global order.”
Just months into his tenure as a freshman senator, Hawley has already begun to cement his reputation as a gadfly among congressional Republicans by urging a more active role for the government in reversing the cultural and economic losses suffered in recent years by Americans like those he grew up with.
“If you want a life built around the place where you grew up, if your goals are not to found a tech startup but to carry on the family business, to serve on the PTA and in your local church, well, you’re told you’re not a success, and you’re on your own.” Hawley said. “This is hardly an 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.”
“But in places like the one where I grew up in middle Missouri, good-paying jobs that you can raise a family on are moving away,” he added.
Hawley’s populist leanings and distrust of status-quo Republican politics have found expression in a number of unorthodox bills, none more so than legislation he introduced last week that would prohibit video-game makers from “exploiting children” by encouraging them to spend money in order to advance in a particular game.
Google and Facebook have also emerged as favorite targets of Hawley’s populist ire. He has openly entertained the possibility of breaking the companies up and has argued on many occasions that the government must, at the very least, introduce substantial regulations to prevent them from trading on users’ personal data.
In a letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week, Hawley argued that the tech billionaire has a responsibility to his fellow Americans to dramatically shift his business model away from the monetization of user data and the capturing of users’ attention.
“The burden to protect the American people from forces parasitic on our national life and on our economy is on me and my colleagues. I take my responsibilities seriously,” he wrote. “I hope you do the same for yours.”