It can sometimes feel like Trump blundered into becoming the avatar of a modern resurgence of nationalist xenophobia, whose principles he only imperfectly adheres to; like Evangelical Christians — who accept his personal conduct because he appoints “godly” judges — the far right has long viewed Trump as a means to an end. But if Trump came to xenophobia late in life, Hawley has studied his way there. He is the author of a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and Roosevelt clearly provides his political model: a conservative Republican who busted trusts, ran for president as a Progressive, and was friends and intellectual fellow travelers with some of this country’s most virulent eugenicists and anti-immigrant racists. But Roosevelt’s racism wasn’t simply in his essays and letters and speeches (and friendships); as president, his “Gentlemen’s Agreement” with Japan and 1907 Immigration Act were premised on the notion that non-white immigrants were less desirable — even actively harmful — for the country than western Europeans.
The cosmopolitans Hawley attacks sound a lot like what Roosevelt called “an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people,” and while phrases like “the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics” might sound archaic, there is little daylight between the underlying sentiment — and conspiratorial overtones — of Roosevelt’s positions and Hawley’s. In both cases, xenophobic nationalism connects the dots: “Cosmopolitan” financiers and corrupt politicians are the villains and their common weapon is an immigrant labor force that they use to “devalue” American workers. And like Roosevelt — who worried constantly about white American breeding — Hawley’s concern that “marriage rates among working class Americans are falling” and “birth rates are falling” transforms economic struggle into cultural peril. If he doesn’t express it in exactly fourteen words, the sentiment is the same.