In the last few weeks, the Supreme Court has delivered massive victories for the Second Amendment, religious liberty, school choice, and the pro-life movement. But just two years ago, one of the populist Right’s darling leaders, Senator Josh Hawley, declared “the end of the conservative legal movement” over one decision he disliked.
The Missouri Republican’s populist hyperbole has aged about as well as Joe Biden.
Let’s wind back the clock for a moment. Two years ago almost to the day, Hawley essentially declared the entire decades-long originalist legal movement a failure after Justice Neil Gorsuch authored a 6-3 decision, rooted in textualism, extending the Civil Rights Act’s employment anti-discrimination protections to include gay and transgender Americans. (The horror!)
“We’re supposed to keep our mouth shut while the party establishment pursues ruinous trade policies. We’re supposed to keep our mouths shut while those at the upper end of the income bracket get all the attention,” Hawley said. “Because there would be pro-Constitution religious liberty judges? Except for they aren’t.”
“These judges don’t follow the Constitution,” he said of the Supreme Court which, with the exception of Amy Coney Barrett replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, remains otherwise unchanged and just delivered so many constitutional victories.
Hawley literally claimed that the one gay rights decision “represents the end of the conservative legal movement,” according to Politico.
I reached out to Senator Hawley’s office to ask him a few follow-up questions: “Now that SCOTUS, unchanged except for one justice, has delivered victories for the 2nd Amendment, school choice, religious liberty, and even ended Roe v. Wade, does the senator admit he was wrong? Does he apologize to Neil Gorsuch for claiming ‘These judges don’t follow the Constitution’ after the Bostock ruling?”
A spokesperson for Hawley said the following in response: “Senator Hawley has been proven exactly right. He said he would vote only for Supreme Court nominees who acknowledged Roe was wrong. Amy Barrett did, and she was the deciding vote in Dobbs. Mission accomplished.”
This response doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s off-topic and simply attempts to shift the goalposts. Yes, Hawley was right about Amy Coney Barrett. But he blasted Neil Gorsuch and the other justices still currently on the court as not following the Constitution and said the entire conservative legal movement was a failure.
Surely the senator doesn’t expect us to believe that one justice changed all that? Indeed, without Gorsuch’s vote, overturning Roe v. Wade doesn’t happen.
Hawley was simply wrong. He got media attention for his hyperbolic condemnation of the Supreme Court in 2020, but it was never based in reality.
Hawley is often touted as the populist-nationalist Right’s brightest champion and sometimes floated as a potential GOP presidential nominee. But for a guy who claims that the Right should ditch its long-held principles of free markets and individual liberty and follow him into a pseudointellectual “populist” revolution, he sure does get a lot of things woefully, terribly, hilariously, wrong.