Poison populism: Bernie's new best friend will help Trump cause chaos during electoral vote count in Congress

Bernie Sanders and Josh Hawley

Donald Trump has been looking for a Republican senator to challenge Joe Biden's clear and convincing victory in the presidential election, and he has finally found one. Missouri Republican - and recent Bernie Sanders best friend - Josh Hawley has announced that he will do Trump's bidding and object to Congress's legally mandated certification of Biden's win.

Given the fact that multiple Republican members of Congress have already committed to submitting to the ego of the king of sore losers, Hawley's announcement means that when Congress formally counts the electoral votes for president on January 6, there will at least be a few hours delay in certifying the vote. It's something that Republican House members would not be able to do on their own, as a challenge to a state's electoral vote count must be signed by at least one Representative in the House and one Senator. In Josh Howley, Trump has the Senator willing to do his bidding.

Howley released a statement, which was reported by Axios, stating that he would challenge the electoral vote count based on what he says is states, particularly Pennsylvania, violating their own election laws. That, frankly, is not Hawley's decision. State laws are a matter of state courts to decide, and not a single court, federal or state, has found any evidence that this is true. So much for states' rights.

Josh Hawley has made some splashes as a right-wing populist hero, none more prominently than in recent weeks as he has joined Bernie Sanders, the bastion of leftist populism, to push for direct payments to be included in the COVID emergency relief bill that was just enacted by Congress. Although the payments were negotiated by House and Senate leadership and most critically by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hawley and Sanders claimed credit.

Hawley's backing of direct payments - which to be perfectly sure is good policy - not only earned him accolades as somewhat of a maverick in a Republican caucus generally against direct payments but also newly-minted celebrity status among the populist left.

Hawley's popularity among the socialist Bernie left is reminiscent of the alt-left's #StandWithRand movement that canonized far-right Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul as he filibustered President Obama's nominee for Director of the CIA, John Brennan, in 2013.

Hawley's fast rise to leftist hero - even as the same group continued to demand the one individual most responsible for two rounds of direct payments and enhanced unemployment benefits, Speaker Pelosi, be dethroned - took many forms. On social media, Sanders backers, socialists, and alt-leftists (admittedly, the Venn diagram between the three is almost a perfect circle) spoke of Hawley adoringly, with some rushing to join the Josh Hawley Republican Party.

There aren't any objective measures by which Hawley, who defeated Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill from the right in Missouri, should be considered a progressive. In his Senate floor speech against the National Defense Authorization Act, Hawley singled out his opposition to renaming military bases named after Confederate Generals who fought to preserve slavery as a key reason for his 'No' vote.

Hawley celebrated the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett with the explicit expectation that Barrett will use her Christian religious fundamentalism to remove the right of American women to obtain a legal and safe abortion.

When the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ Americans enjoyed protections under the Civil Rights Act, Hawley joined Ted Cruz to say that the move to protect fundamental rights signaled the end of the conservative legal movement. But in all honesty, it may be because Hawley, a hardcore proponent of voter suppression, doesn't believe in civil rights at all.

Hawley is a supporter of Donald Trump's border wall and of Trump's declaration of emergency at the US-Mexico border, which allowed him to skim funds from military housing construction to use for the wall instead.

Hawley is an ardent opponent of regulations to tackle climate change and phase out fossil fuel or even regulate CO2 emissions, a foe of a ban on assault weapons, and is fully on board with the right's assault on collective bargaining. Perhaps most oddly for a socialist hero, Howley opposes raising the minimum wage.

And never mind Hawley's far-right positions on any of these other issues. Leftist "thought leaders" are now openly supporting his move to challenge Biden's electoral victory on the grounds that former California Sen. Barbara Boxer joined with the Late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones to object to the counting of Ohio's electoral votes in 2004. Boxer's challenge was based on the facts of voter suppression against Black people, not made-up voter fraud fantasies to soothe white supremacists, but it's not exactly a surprise that the two would appear roughly equivalent to populists on both the far left and the far right. Also, unlike in 2020, the defeated candidate in 2004, then-Sen. John Kerry, had already conceded that election to then-President Bush, and Kerry did not participate in the challenge.

For many who call themselves progressives and feign outrage against every Democrat who dares to deviate from the socialist, this man is a hero. Why? Because ultimately for those who don the rose on their Twitter profiles, all forms of rights for women, people of color, and LGBTQ are worth sacrificing for a one-time check. For them, the future of the planet that they say is their one overriding concern is forgettable for a bribe. And for them, the pain of the families of police brutality or school shootings must be balanced against a regressive, far-right, arch-conservative lawmakers' willingness to team up with a self-appointed gatekeeper of progressivism to write those checks.

That, in a nutshell, is populism. Populism is toxic.

Populism is poison.