In Search of Populism: The ruling class ignored the people; the people struck back.
If Hawley and Cruz Are Cancelled, Conservatism Is Next
Any conservative worth his salt should defend senators against baseless and dictatorial attacks.
The usual suspects have, once again, cobbled together a show trial for Donald Trump in hopes of finally ousting him as the main competitor to their self-proclaimed monopoly on authority and public opinion. Nothing new, of course: this has been the aim of the ruling class, left and right, for the past few years. But now that Trump’s term has drawn to a close, his enemies have begun to focus their fire more keenly on the (alarmingly few) senators who seem poised to lead the conservative populist movement in the future. Chief among their targets are Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whom they now proclaim “guilty” for objecting to the counting of electoral votes from certain states.
Hawley and Cruz led a number of senators in these objections, knowing they were likely to be overwhelmed, but nevertheless hoping to finally force a Senate debate on the new voting systems imposed by fiat amidst the 2020 election. By doing so, they acted in perfect accordance with the supposed purpose of a senator: to represent the political concerns of their constituents and raise their serious questions in what ought to be the most revered forum for dispassionate political debate. Their objections forced other senators to clarify their positions to constituents, and pressured them to perhaps support alternative solutions to the problem. Importantly, they also forced the Senate to directly address the doubts of a sizable portion of the country regarding the legality, wisdom, and fairness of this new election regime.
The ruling class has now made it perfectly clear that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated. Questioning elite consensus threatens their power. It runs the risk of exposing their reasoning as flawed, or corrupt, or empty, all of which it often is. Even more alarming to the ruling class, it implies that their self-proclaimed natural right to rule, their unquestionable authority to settle political matters, is a sham. It suggests that they cannot simply appeal to their own supposed expertise, but instead must persuade those they intend to govern.
This has been an increasingly difficult problem for the ruling class over the past few years. The conservative populist movement actively rejects the authority of these “experts.” These voters recognize that those who hold themselves up as experts are often disastrously incompetent (look at the handling of the pandemic and the utter destruction of our nation’s livelihood, measured in whatever terms you like). They also see that the premises and decisions of these experts are often motivated by contempt for America, for the American way of life, and for them personally.
The ruling class is especially keen, therefore, to crush anyone who seems willing to lead such a movement. They have come after the objectors with every weapon in their arsenal. They have attempted to blame Hawley and Cruz for the rioting at the Capitol (which Hawley and Cruz did not cause and which they have roundly condemned). They have labelled them as domestic enemies of the Constitution for following constitutional procedure and voicing their constituents’ concerns—for following, in fact, the lawful, peaceful method of resolution most diametrically opposed to the rioters’ behavior.
Absurdly, they have even resorted to their old reliable tactic of labelling the objectors as racists, and it has worked. Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), for example, has bizarrely apologized to his black constituents for even considering an objection. Why objecting would be racist, or what exactly has dissipated his previous concerns, Lankford never explains. The charge is so outlandish that the most charitable explanation of Lankford’s behavior is that he just hasn’t thought the issue through.
The less charitable, but perhaps more likely, explanation is that he has been intimidated into submission. After all, the punishments levied against the objectors have been severe. Condemnations from the ruling class have been shrill, especially on the Pierre-Delecto right. There have been calls to remove objecting senators from office, strip them of committee assignments, or revoke their Ivy-League credentials (the worst punishment many in the ruling class can imagine).
But most alarming have been the punishments from the major corporations, the Left’s most muscular enforcement arm. First was Big Tech of course, but nearly every major corporation has piled on. Hotel chains, publishers, and even greeting card companies all feel the need to exact a punishment. Much of this has been directed at Senator Hawley, who has been the most outspoken about the danger these corporations pose. Meanwhile, of course, the ruling class and Woke Capital funded and covered for the BLM riots of the summer. This isn’t what-about-ism; it’s a real difference of principle. Where Hawley and Cruz have been utterly consistent, the Left does not feel the need.
Cancelling Half the Country
However, to support the electoral vote objections of Hawley and Cruz, while opposing the rioters, is far from a fringe view. It is the view, polling suggests, of the majority of Trump’s 74 million voters, even now. It is alarming to find it so reviled and attacked in the most absurd terms, especially among those who are nominally their representatives. It is a bad state of affairs for an elected official to know that holding this set of opinions can destroy them.
There are of course vehement disagreements on questions of election integrity, but seeking to live peaceably with those whose political positions you strongly oppose is the central question of American politics. The reasonable, the noble course of action is the one taken by Hawley and Cruz. A reasonable leader would respect the people enough to hold a debate, seeking to persuade his fellow citizens. A courageous leader would advocate for his beliefs even in the face of elite mockery and corporate punishment, seeking to persuade his fellow citizens by argument rather than by force.
This is not what the Left seeks. Having lost the ability to appeal to their own authority without pushback, they are perfectly content to turn to force. They do not seek to persuade, because they believe that opposition to their premises is too troglodytic to merit a response. If opposition persists, they will happily censor, or fire, or jail.
Any conservative worth his salt ought to be alarmed at this, and ought to defend the objectors. What has been lost in corporate contributions ought to be made up in personal ones. Republican politicians, especially 2024 hopefuls, ought to publicly and loudly defend Hawley and Cruz, if only out of recognition that should the vanguard coalition succeed in this, the political future of any other conservative is far from secure. Whatever comes next will be worse, and a Lankford-esque response will be woefully insufficient.
Hawley and Cruz are leaders now because they’re willing to take political risks. If we are to face the political moment, we will need to take more of these kinds of risks, and in more difficult circumstances than these. The failure to meet these challenges in the past and the instinct to freeze up in the face of criticism is precisely what led us to this position in the first place. Trump rose because the voters recognized the failures of this regime, but even under his leadership the party has not shed its old habits. We will need to do so if we hope to have any chance of reversing the decline, or even slowing it down.
No senator ought to be punished for lawfully and peacefully elevating the reasonable concerns of his constituents to the floor of the Senate. No corporation ought to be able to remove such senators, or the people they represent, from the public square. Conservatives need to recognize that corporations, and the ruling class in general, are not our friends. The leaders we need the most are those who, like Hawley and Cruz, have the courage and integrity to oppose them.