Hawley’s economic views are set apart from the left in part by his diagnosis of America’s problems. He sees social isolation and the erosion of local communal life—including church, family, neighborhoods, and labor unions—as intimately tied to declining economic opportunity for the middle class. “Economic policy and our communities and neighborhoods sit right together. They’re really intertwined,” Hawley told me.
And unlike most Democrats, Hawley argues that cultural pathologies have helped create this fractured political moment, particularly the cult of individualism that he says drives everything from public policy to pop culture. In a vision of America in which liberty is primarily about unlimited personal freedom, he said in his speech to the American Principles Project Foundation, “place and home don’t matter much, and civic participation is beside the point.” This same vision produces “economic policy focused on individual advancement, where advancement means making more money and consuming more stuff,” he said, according to his prepared remarks. “So in popular culture, billionaires become heroes, and the everyday working man becomes just some guy who never realized his potential.”
It’s no small irony that Hawley credits the start of the conservative populist revolution to a man who has spent his career crafting his image as a glamorous billionaire. The Missouri senator is willing to obliquely criticize some of Trump’s policies.