Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), speaking at The Heritage Foundation’s Leadership Summit, outlined a clear path forward for conservatism. Senator Hawley’s remarks, “Conservatives at a Crossroads,” is symbolic of Ronald Reagan’s famous “A Time for Choosing” address in which he delivered on behalf of Senator Barry M. Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964. Sen. Hawley, just as with Reagan, has provided a path for conservatives to follow that focuses on defending the family, battling cultural Marxism, and following economic and foreign policies that place America First.
“It is my conviction: We stand at one of the great crossroads in American history. The decisions that we make in the next five, ten years will determine the shape of the next fifty or 100. And the question is, what will conservatives stand for in this hour,” stated Sen. Hawley? The United States is confronted with serious problems, especially the growing threat of cultural Marxism. This cultural Marxism as Sen. Hawley argues “seeks to transform American life—to transform practically every institution we cherish, to abolish the traditional family, to rewrite American history, to purge our society of Christian influence and the Bible.”
“The new Marxists decided economics wasn’t destiny after all. Culture is. And they aimed to transform American culture, warns Sen. Hawley. The cultural Marxists have left no institution untouched. Whether it is the family, education, religion, business, the arts, among others cultural Marxism is “spreading like a disease.” Just recently, President Joe Biden even remarked that “there’s no such thing as someone else’s child. Our nation’s children are all our children.” This is just one example of an agenda that seeks to “tear out Biblical influence, to define away gender, to recast American history as systematically evil, to weaken parents, to empower experts, and on and on.”
Sen. Hawley correctly warns that the “Republican Party as we know it is not prepared to meet this challenge,” and the “party as we know it must be reformed.” Further, Sen. Hawley argues that conservatives must not only help steer the Republican Party, but also “choose what we are about” in order to meet this challenge. Sen. Hawley is correct that both the Republican Party and conservatism is at a crossroads, and he argues that the best path forward is conservative nationalism.
During the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union Republicans and conservatives marked the “End of History” as a victory for democracy and the global free market.” It was in this decade that Sen. Hawley states that Republicans “embraced a politics of the New World Order,” which consisted of the globalist policies of open markets and open borders. It was not just the Republicans that embraced globalization, but Democrats as well.
As a result, the United States supported free trade agreements such as NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, which all led to granting China Most Favored Nation (MFN) status. As Sen. Hawley argues this resulted in “no more protection of American manufacturing, no more fostering American industry,” and the “priority now was the free movement of capital.” Free trade became a “golden calf” idol for many Republicans and conservatives as they worshiped at the alter of open markets.
This had further complications with open borders that resulted in massive levels of both legal and illegal immigration and a foreign policy that was based on more Wilsonian internationalism than conservatism. “The New World Order Republicans wanted America to be a global hegemon,” stated Sen. Hawley. It was this foreign policy philosophy that directly influenced President George W. Bush, which resulted in a “massive, permanent presence in the Middle east, and later, two twenty-year long wars in the Middle East.”
Further, Sen. Hawley noted that this Wilsonian foreign policy “committed America to a forever presence in Europe,” and it resulted in “decades of constant conflict—everywhere, on nearly every continent—constant intervention around the globe.”
The result has not been good for the United States. “Thirty years on, the verdict is in. The New World Order has failed. The pursuit of economic globalism has failed. The pursuit of empire has failed,” stated Sen. Hawley. The free trade policies have resulted in both massive trade deficits and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs, which devastated the middle class. It has also led to a growing dependence on foreign nations, and often hostile nations such as China, for necessities.
The hollowing out of industry has not just economic consequences, but families and communities are impacted. “Blue collar jobs that once provided a good living for a family, the loss of good paying work for working people has meant fewer marriages, falling birth rates, and it has disrupted whole towns and communities,” stated Sen. Hawley.
The main beneficiary to these policies has been China. Sen. Hawley is correct when he noted that granting MFN status was a “colossal mistake,” and “China has built their military on the backs of our middle class.” It was argued that MFN status for China would help “democratize” and open their economy, but the direct opposite has occurred. China is now our main adversary.
Whether it is cultural Marxism or the failure of the open borders, free market, and Wilsonian foreign policy agenda, Sen. Hawley argues that they are all connected, and it is time for conservatives to embrace a conservatism that not only defends traditional values but protects and strengthens the working class. “Ours has been a working-class nation. This country’s culture has been defined by working people,” stated Sen. Hawley.
“It was a middle-class consensus. Working class, middle-class institutions have defined American life: family, neighborhood, church, nation. Working class values have centered on those institutions,” argues Sen. Hawley.
The conservative nationalism that Sen. Hawley proscribes is nothing new, but a return to traditional conservatism that the Republican Party followed before it embraced globalization and liberal internationalism. Sen. Hawley argues that the United States must embrace a foreign policy that places the interests of America first, an end to ruinous trade policies (including revoking MFN for China), and a “rigorous focus on bringing back industry, bringing back blue-collar jobs that can support a family, and curbing the power of corporate monopolies.”
“And so, what is the conservative’s role in an America many believe has not only lost its way but seems to be losing its mind? What is it now that conservatives must conserve,” asked Patrick J. Buchanan? Sen. Hawley provides an answer.
The United States is at a crossroads and Sen. Hawley has provided a clear path forward for both the Republican Party and conservatism. Sen. Hawley is not the only voice embracing conservative nationalism, but his speech to The Heritage Foundation will have a legacy just as strong as Reagan’s A Time for Choosing address.
John Hendrickson serves as policy director for Iowans for Tax Relief Foundation