A DANGER GREATER THAN TRUMP
With the bombast and vitriol of the presidential race consuming the nation’s attention, I worry that the focus is lost on important local elections. Just today, when speaking to a woman at work, she gave me a look of utter exasperation when I asked if she was voting. She flung her hands up in the air, saying that she just hates people and therefore is choosing not to vote. I mentioned to her that the politicians who will have the most immediate impact on our lives are the ones down-ballot, and some of the people on the Missouri state ballot were outright terrifying.
Yes, I am afraid of a Donald Trump Presidency and like many, I also wonder how the nation will recover from the hatred that his candidacy has stoked. But I am also worried about candidates who are much closer, with a greater potential for harm within state goverments. In my homestate of Missouri, that candidate is the Republican nominee for the Attorney General, Josh Hawley. With Hawley, the nation is witnessing the birth of a career politician, a man who shares with Trump a terrifying vision for this country but peddles the message with words like “values” and “religious freedom” and a misleading, suave veneer of sincerity and wholesomeness — which makes him far more dangerous.
Unfortunately, many people buy Hawley’s sales pitch, with his campaign gaining the momentum of some choice endorsements,such as the Kansas City Star. These endorsements betray a complete indifference to the reality that Josh Hawley presents a graver threat to women, minorities and those who value basic individual rights than even Donald Trump does. Hawley has made a career empowering corporate entities to discriminate against and otherwise suppress ordinary people, and he openly promises to continue to do so through selective enforcement of laws as Attorney General.
Support of Hawley appears based on a wholesale acceptance of his campaign rhetoric — where he describes himself as an anti-corruption “outsider” — rather than a critical assessment of his actual track record or the circumstances of his candidacy. In the coverage of his campaign, there is no mention of his role as co-counsel for the defense in the infamous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., where he argued to the US Supreme Court that corporate entities could invoke “religious freedom” to deny women basic, fundamental rights. Yes he fought for businesses and corporation to be people, too, and he fought for a woman’s employer to have a say in the type of healthcare she received. But what is more frightening is that the subsequent ruling created an avenue by which corporate entities can claim exemption from the law that grant all people equal rights and protections. As a result, there has already been legal quagmire in cases involving discrimination against LGBT employees, union negotiation, and circumvention of child labor laws. ( Regarding LGBT rights, Hawley supports government clerks like Kim Davis in not granting same-sex marriage licenses if it is against their religion, too.)
In addition to his dismal track record on women’s and LGBT rights, as a law professor at the University of Missouri, Hawley has defended racial hate speech as protected by the First Amendment, and has proudly trumpeted these views on his own campaign website. Let us not forget Missouri, home to Ferguson, is a state that could use less, not more, divisiveness. Hawley’s views and agenda are not a service to Missouri; rather, they present a danger to our state and its citizens. Perhaps this is why the Fraternal Order of the Police in Missouri has declined to endorse him.
Furthermore, Hawley’s campaign has been bankrolled largely by millions of dollars from Missouri megadonor David Humphreys — a wealthy businessman who has donated millions to candidates undermining the rights of consumers and of workers in his self-interest. Hawley also counts Peter Thiel, an unapologetic Trump supporter, and other prominent multimillionaires (and, of course, Citizens United) among his major contributors. The support of the ultra-rich has allowed him vastly to outspend his opponent with an aggressive, slick ad campaign. While his stated plans to combat government corruption are admirable, Hawley is already tainted by these very unsavory practices that he vows to work against. Already, the generous, extremely top-loaded contributions to his campaign has raised suspicions regarding finance ethics, and his election would simply confirm the perception that government seats can be bought.
Indeed,the cash flow is working: Hawley is pulling far ahead in the polls against his opponent Teresa Hensley, but all pundits agree that there is one vote that can silence the millions poured into Hawley’s campaign: the Democratic African American vote. Yet I fear, like my friend, they may not make it the polls to vote.
Josh Hawley’s presence in politics is an affront to the common citizen, to women, to minorities and to anyone who cares about human decency. Hawley speaks of values and freedom, but his choice of words cleverly veils a political agenda of government deregulation that serves the wealthy special-interests that fund his campaign and disenfranchises those who do not fit his insular world view.
Ultimately, disregard of Hawley’s track record on women’s and minorities’ rights suggests a tragically myopic perspective of society. Unfortunately, these days, machismo and posturing dominates over sound politics, and Hawley’s candidacy does little to bring the dialogue back to substance.
You may dismiss Hawley’s potential for harm as being circumscribed, thinking it may only affect people in Missouri, but you are wrong. Hawley is likely using the Attorney General office as a stepping stone for greater political prizes in the future. Furthermore, the Republican party is planning to elect an army of conservative Attorney Generals in state elections to potentially disrupt a Democratic Presidency. And if that is the case, these local elections count for a lot; if you do not live in Missouri, there may be others like Hawley on your ballot. Look closely and examine carefully. If you are not white, male, wealthy, Christian, and heterosexual, you better not sit this election out.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Teresa Hensley’s campaign. I just write this with love, concern and deep admiration for my homestate of Missouri, the birthplace of Mark Twain. And I am a concerned citizen.