Once again, the state of Missouri is being humiliated on the national stage by the cynical political antics of its junior U.S. senator. Who in this fraught political climate votes against a bill to confront anti-Asian hate crimes? Josh Hawley — and only Josh Hawley — that’s who. Hawley on Thursday cast the sole vote in the Senate against The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, designed to combat what experts say has been a clear spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
The bill creates a framework to gather data on pandemic-related hate crimes, expedite review of those crimes and give guidance to states in how to address the issue. None of this is radical, as evidenced by the bill’s support from 94 of the 95 senators present for the vote. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Tom Cotton, R-Ariz., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and dozens of other conservative stalwarts all logged yes votes.
Hawley alone raised his voice against a measure that “condemns and denounces any and all anti-Asian and Pacific Islander sentiment in any form.”
Like so many pandemic-related problems still plaguing America, this one can be traced in large part back to former President Donald Trump. While in office, he missed no opportunity to couch the crisis in xenophobic terms with such provocative phrases as “China virus” and “kung flu.” The virus’ China origin is undisputed, but that obviously has nothing to do with people of Asian descent in America — except to racists, who make up a significant portion of the Trump base that Hawley is trying to cultivate.
Of course, Hawley doesn’t explain his vote that way. He claims the bill “turns the federal government into the speech police” and provides “sweeping authority to decide what counts as offensive speech and then monitor it.” In fact, the bill does no such thing, but since when has Hawley let a little issue like the facts get in the way of his demagoguery?
Hawley also chafes at “all of this data collection” in the bill — as if gathering statistics about reported crimes is some kind of Orwellian scheme. Analyzing data is how society quantifies and addresses problems. Is Hawley opposed to the U.S. Census as well?
No one who has watched Hawley’s cynical, ladder-climbing career should have any doubt about what’s going on here. In a political party that has become wholly extremist, Hawley knows he needs to be even more extremist and outrageous to stand out.
It’s why he became the first senator to formally back Trump’s big lie about election fraud, forcing the unnecessary election-certification vote that helped incite the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
It’s why he alone raised his fist in solidarity with the attackers just before they struck. Here’s hoping Missourians figure out that Hawley’s stunts aren’t leadership, or even representation. They’re just an enduring national embarrassment.