Josh Hawley Thinks You're Stupid
In “Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager,” from season 7 of The Office, Dwight Schrute, played by Rainn Wilson, accidently fires a gun at work. Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) heads off to the hospital with a burst ear drum. The rest of the office endeavor to blackmail Dwight.
The blackmail scheme works for a while. Eventually, the CEO of the company, Jo Bennett (Cathy Bates), learns what Dwight did.
Dwight mounts a rhetorical defense: “Did I make a mistake? Yes. Do I regret the decision that I made? Yes.”
“Stop asking yourself easy questions so you can look like a genius,” Jo Bennett says.
My title for this blog post was, for five minutes, “Josh Hawley Thinks You’re a Child,” but then my six-year-old son came into the room and showed me a map he’s created on his computer. This is his latest intellectual obsession: creating electoral college scenarios. There were red states and blue states. Since November 3, 2020, about six to ten times a day, we play a game. He covers up the elector totals, and I have to guess based on the reds and blues on the map. Lately, he’s invented his own Fantasy League. Ronald Reagan takes on Barack Obama. Theodore Roosevelt versus Woodrow Wilson—“but in 1900, not 1912,” Teddy informs me. He uses the 270towin.com website. Today it’s Biden v. Nixon. “Of course, it’s not entirely accurate,” he says, “because the electoral college votes are based on the 2010 census, and so these elector numbers wouldn’t really have been the numbers for Nixon.”
I was thinking about Dwight Schrute last night—January 6, 2021—when Josh Hawley spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Hawley mentioned that “violence is not how you achieve something better.” And then he said this:
“Our constitution was built and put into place so that there would be, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘no appeal from ballots to bullets,’ which is what we saw unfortunately attempted tonight. There’s no place for that in the United States of America. And that’s why, I submit to my colleagues, that what we’re doing here tonight is actually very important. Because for those who have concerns about the integrity of our elections, those who have concerns about what happened in November, this is the appropriate means, this is the lawful place where those objections and concerns should be heard. This is the forum that the law, our laws, provide for those concerns to be registered, not through violence, not by appealing ‘from ballots to bullets,’ but here in this lawful process. And to those who say that this is just a formality today, an antique ceremony that we’ve engaged in for a couple of hundred years, I can’t say that I agree. I can’t say that our precedents suggest that. I actually think it’s very vital what we do. The opportunity to be heard, to register objections, is very vital because this is the place where those objections are to be heard and dealt with, debated, and finally resolved, in this lawful means, peacefully, without violence, without attacks, without bullets.”
Hawley is asking himself easy questions so he can look like a genius.
Or, rather, he’s answering a question no one asked—Is it better to debate an issue in the U.S. Senate or to use violence?—so as to look like he’s competently doing his job.
(Is he competently doing his job? No. He's attempting to do someone else's job, perhaps the job of a judge in Pennsylvania or perhaps someone advising the secretary of state in Arizona.)
Hovering around the edges is another question: Is it better for you, a registered voter, a citizen exercising a democratic right, to be disenfranchised through armed insurrection or through five-minute speeches and then a roll call vote?
Because that was what Josh Hawley voted to do yesterday: disenfranchise the voters of Pennsylvania. (He also voted to disenfranchise the voters of Arizona.)
He voted to overturn the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania, to not count those electors. (He did not hide behind the "commission" proposed by Ted Cruz. He simply objected to the electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona being counted at all.)
He voted to say that a state's election wasn't really a state's. It was his.
He claimed that two states' elections were subject to his judgment. He voted to reject their electors because he thinks that his reading of their state constitutions and laws should replace the interpretations by the legislators, judges, and elected officials in those states.
He essentially went over to his neighbors' house and said, "I don't know you very well, and I don't live in the house with you two, but you should get a divorce. In fact, you are getting a divorce. I've filed all the paperwork for you. It's done."
The answer he gave was that the elected officials in Pennsylvania expanded the means of lawful voting before the elections took place—think: the NFL changing a rule before the season begins—to make it easier for citizens to vote during a viral pandemic.
That’s the core of his objection: more registered voters had more options to express their will in our democracy.
His position was not that fraud occurred.
His position was not that hundreds or even thousands voted illegally.
His position was that an elected state official, in a state that he has nothing to do with and no election oversight over, did something which caused the chances that fraud might have occurred to go up a tiny fraction, at least theoretically, but that no evidence of such fraud exists.
The neighbors are getting a divorce, by decree of Josh Hawley, because the husband, Josh Hawley has observed, recently lost some weight.
He gave a five-minute speech, heard no witnesses, neither presented nor heard any evidence (unless you count other senators’ oratory as evidence; I don’t), and then cast a vote that would have effectively disenfranchised—on only one question on the ballot, by the way—the voters of Pennsylvania and Arizona.
His position was not that fraud occurred. His position was not that dead people voted in droves or that the ghost of Hugo Chávez reprogrammed the voting machines.
His position was: Isn’t it better to ignore the will of the people, and to expand our own job descriptions while we're at it, through a polite, well-dressed coup?
His position was: Why bother with the armed mob when we could, right here, tonight, take the power from the people?
Dwight’s removed as acting regional manager. Firing a gun at work is unacceptable. Jo Bennett acts immediately.
So should we.
Richard Sonnenmoser writes about fatherhood, music, pop culture, and politics. He's had fiction, poetry, and nonfiction published in Harvard Review, West Branch, Crab Orchard Review, Permafrost, Big Muddy, and others.