The problem with political decadence is not what it does to those who are already disordered. The primary problem is what it does to talented, knowledgeable, ambitious young leaders who can be warped toward a destructive influence.
Ambition is a human trait assumed by the nation’s founders and incorporated into their design of our system, which pits ambition against ambition to check and balance power. By implication, it is a neutral characteristic — a source of mischief or a spur to greatness. Ambition can lead men and women to say things they don’t believe, to the detriment of their character. The worse problem comes when it leads politicians outside the boundaries of democracy, which is where Hawley now finds himself. In the cause of his own advancement, the senator from Missouri is willing to endorse the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans — particularly voters of color — and justify the attempted theft of an election. He is willing to credit malicious lies that will poison our democracy for generations. The fulfillment of Hawley’s intention — the ultimate overturning of the election — would be the collapse of U.S. self-government. The attempt should be a source of shame.