When Josh Hawley first ran for public office in 2016, the future U.S. Senator with a televised look and impressive Tory pedigree posted an ad swearing he wasn’t the kind of politician who used the victory as a catapult to higher things.
“[Missouri] is full of career politicians who just move up the ranks, using one desk to get another, ”Mr. Hawley said. “You deserve better.”
Less than a year later, after a successful run for Missouri attorney general, Mr. Hawley was fighting for his next job as a state senator. After winning this competition in 2019, he became a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2024.
Then his ladder slipped.
As one of the leaders of the Republican attempt to block certification of the November 2020 election results – which turned into an attack on the United States Capitol – Mr Hawley has faced widespread recriminations from some of his biggest supporters and backers.
Mr Hawley’s longtime mentor, former Republican Senator from Missouri, John Danforth, said defending Mr Hawley’s rise was “the worst decision I have ever made in my life.” Two of his major donors have given up on him.
Hallmark, Mr Hawley’s state-based greeting card company, called on his campaign to return donations from his employees, while his hometown newspaper said in an op-ed that the young senator had ” blood on the hands ”.
Carlos Curbelo, the former Republican congressman, suggested in an interview that Mitch McConnell, the leading Republican in the Senate, might even strip Mr. Hawley of his committee duties or censor him, with Ted Cruz the other senator behind the certification campaign. .
Mr Curbelo said Mr McConnell knew that “these types of attitudes had to be eliminated from his conference” and that both senators were “extremely vulnerable”.
Friends of Mr Hawley said they watched in horror as events unfolded.
“I’ve thought about Macbeth a lot: when you’re halfway across the river, you might as well go to the other side,” a friend said, referring to the Scottish general’s monologue in Act III when he describes being so deep in “The River of Blood” that he is unable to back down.
“Am I surprised what happened?” asked David Kennedy, the Stanford history professor who mentored Mr Hawley as an undergraduate and has kept in close contact with him over the years. “Yes. Am I disappointed? Yes.”
Mr Kennedy said he was perplexed at Mr Hawley’s decision not to use the “exit ramp” taken by his fellow Republicans, who dropped the challenge after the riot on Capitol Hill.
The senator’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite his populist leanings, Mr. Hawley had the kind of opportunities most Americans can only dream of. The son of a banker who grew up in the small town of Lexington, Missouri, Mr. Hawley was educated at a private Catholic boys’ school and then attended Stanford, where Mr. Kennedy recalled him as one of the “most gifted” undergraduate students he has ever taught.
Under Mr Kennedy’s tutelage, Mr Hawley’s main thesis on Theodore Roosevelt was eventually published as a biography on the 26th President when its author was only 28 years old.
Mr. Hawley enrolled at Yale. A prestigious internship under the direction of Chief Justice John Roberts at the Supreme Court followed. Mrs Hawley’s future wife, Erin Morrow, was another clerk.
A longtime curator who was a Fellow of the Federalist Society at Yale, Mr. Hawley joined a nonprofit conservative organization in Washington and then taught constitutional law at the University of Missouri before his election as Attorney General of the state.
In the Senate, Mr. Hawley made his name as a populist Tory, becoming one of the GOP’s biggest critics against Great technology, an issue some friends have linked to his interest in Roosevelt, a man he can trust.
He advocated for a second round of $ 2,000 relief checks for Americans during the pandemic, a position that aligned him with Bernie Sanders and ultimately won the backing of President Donald Trump.
Mr Kennedy, who helped Mr Hawley’s first campaign and attended his inauguration as state attorney general, said he was dismayed to see Mr Hawley start to align closely with Mr. Trump during his Senate race, a trend that was only accelerating. “He not only seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid, but he swam in it,” he says.
In interviews, some friends of Mr Hawley at Yale Law School and the Supreme Court recalled Mr Hawley not as a political climber, but as an affable, gentle-mannered Tory, polite about his deeply held beliefs. anchored.
“I can name 10 conservative assholes from his time at Yale Law, and he wasn’t on the list,” said a classmate, who donated to Mr. Hawley’s first campaign.
But others have less favorable memories of Mr. Hawley. They remember him as condescending to those he deemed inferior to his rank or unhelpful on his path to success.
“I got a glimpse of his personality in the Senate when we were in law school,” said one, who described Mr. Hawley as “ideologically pure” but “personally unpleasant”.
In the days since he was pictured entering the U.S. Capitol on January 6 – punching Trump protesters outside – Mr. Hawley has defended his decision to go oppose, arguing that “democratic debate is not popular violence”.
And he lashed out at Simon & Schuster, who announced they were canceling their next book in the wake of the riot, accusing the publisher of launching a “direct attack on the First Amendment.”
But as a lawyer, Mr. Hawley knows that while the First Amendment protects free speech, it doesn’t stop private companies from deciding what to publish.
A law school classmate said he didn’t think Mr Hawley really believed the election was stolen. “He’s a smart person. . . articulate a [false] idea of winning the favor of a certain part of the population.
He added: “Everyone knew it was a dangerous and unsettling idea, and he was the first to do it. . . throws caution to the wind because of political expediency. ”