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Josh Hawley shows what GOP politics after Trump will look like – The Washington Post

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What does the GOP base want? That question is of paramount importance to the ambitious Republican who would become the party’s champion in 2024. The emerging consensus is that the way to win that base’s affections is by channeling and encouraging their resentments, much in the way President Trump did.

Pulling this off won’t be easy for more conventional politicians. Many will try; the slate of potential candidates is long and growing. But if you want to understand how Republicans see their own voters, you can’t do much better than to watch Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and his performative populism.

It’s performative because while it’s vivid and dramatic, it has almost no policy content. Hawley doesn’t actually want to do much of anything that might hurt the interests of the wealthy and boost the fortunes of ordinary people; what he wants instead is to encourage seething resentment of the “elite” that he can ride to greater political fortune, a new culture war for the post-Trump era.

Consider this recent Twitter exchange:

Hawley knows perfectly well how nonsensical and incoherent it is to claim that his opponents are simultaneously corporate tools and radical Marxists. But that incoherence is a feature, not a bug.

This is a standard refrain from Hawley, that any Democrat he wants to criticize is a “condescending corporate liberal” looking down their nose at reg’lar folks while they do the bidding of big business (the “sneering” he references in this tweet is the key). As he said in a 2019 speech full of laughable distortions of history (the Framers, he claimed, “built a new republic governed not by a select elite, as in the days of old, but by the common man and woman”), the “cosmopolitan elite” that runs things leaves Americans feeling “unheard, disempowered and disrespected.”

And the mention of “critical race theory” — which approximately one in a thousand Americans actually understands — is another tell. It’s a way of saying that those elitist White liberals don’t care about you because they’re too busy caring about Black people.

This is what political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson call “plutocratic populism,” a stylistic anti-elitism that wins popular support for an agenda that serves only the wealthy and corporations. Nearly every prominent Republican demonstrates it in one way or another, but Hawley offers us one of its clearest incarnations.

Hawley himself is as elite as they come. The son of a banker, he attended prep school before Stanford and Yale Law, where his term as president of the school’s Federalist Society chapter no doubt helped propel him all the way to a Supreme Court clerkship with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. His escalator to the top required no bootstrap-pulling.

Yet posing as a down-home populist has been one of the keys to Hawley’s rise. One example: During his 2018 run for Senate, he faced a serious liability in the lawsuit that he and other Republican attorneys general filed to nullify the Affordable Care Act, which would have yanked protections for preexisting conditions away from all Americans. So he aired an ad claiming to be the guardian of those protections for families like his own: “We’ve got two perfect little boys. Just ask their momma.”

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with politicians who come from wealth promoting the interests of the downtrodden; we have a long history of such figures, most notably Franklin Roosevelt. But the plutocratic populists like Hawley offer regular people only the spiritual succor of outrage: I may be working to increase inequality in America, but elect me because I hate the people you hate.

This is the shared strategy of Hawley and Trump: They’re both products of the American elite riding forth on anti-elite resentment. The difference is that Trump was driven by a sincere envy of the elite and a desperate desire to be accepted by them. He was always the kid from Queens whose (largely inherited) money couldn’t buy him a welcome into Manhattan society; no matter how many buildings he bought or how many times he was mentioned on Page Six, the old-money swells wouldn’t consider him one of their own, which caused him no end of whiny bitterness.

But Hawley is too smart to put himself in the story of grievance he tells; without a force of personality anything like Trump’s, he can only be a vehicle for others’ resentment. He’ll claim to be an enemy of corporations, rail against nonexistent “religious bigotry” and tell the Republican base over and over: You’re the victims. Get mad.

In this effort — indeed, in today’s GOP as a whole — dishonesty, hypocrisy and self-contradiction aren’t sins, they’re virtues, so long as they’re deployed to irritate the libs. Hawley understands as well as anyone that his is a party of trolls, particularly the activist base that will be so important in determining who gets the 2024 nomination; no quality is held in higher esteem among them than the ability to make the left angry.

And in that, Hawley is well on his way. The liberals who pay enough attention to politics to be familiar with him already consider him utterly loathsome.

It may be partly because they understand that while he isn’t exactly a dynamo on the stump, he could have some real appeal to Republicans, particularly when compared with some of the duds lining up to run in 2024, black holes of charisma such as Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.), and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Hawley is every bit as phony as any of them, but he’s much less likely to make voters recoil. Which makes him all the more dangerous.

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U.S., UK, Germany clash with China at U.N. over Xinjiang

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The United States, Germany and Britain clashed with China at the United Nations on Wednesday over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, angering Beijing by hosting a virtual event that China had lobbied U.N. member states to stay away from.

“We will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the event, which organizers said was attended by about 50 countries.

Western states and rights groups accuse Xinjiang authorities of detaining and torturing Uyghurs and other minorities in camps. Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training facilities to combat religious extremism.

“In Xinjiang, people are being tortured. Women are being forcibly sterilized,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Amnesty International secretary general Agnes Callamard told the event there were an estimated 1 million Uyghurs and predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities arbitrarily detained.

In a note to U.N. member states last week, China’s U.N. mission rejected the accusations as “lies and false allegations” and accused the organizers of being “obsessed with provoking confrontation with China.”

While China urged countries “NOT to participate in this anti-China event,” a Chinese diplomat addressed the event.

“China has nothing to hide on Xinjiang. Xinjiang is always open,” said Chinese diplomat Guo Jiakun. “We welcome everyone to visit Xinjiang, but we oppose any kind of investigation based on lies and with the presumption of guilt.”

The event was organized by Germany, the United States and Britain and co-sponsored by Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other European nations. Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said countries who sponsored the event faced “massive Chinese threats,” but did not elaborate.

British U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward described the situation in Xinjiang as “one of the worst human rights crises of our time,” adding: “The evidence … points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups.”

She called for China to allow “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” to U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth called out Bachelet for not joining the event.

“I’m sure she’s busy. You know we all are. But I have a similar global mandate to defend human rights and I couldn’t think of anything more important to do than to join you here today,” Roth told the event.

Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights office, said Bachelet – who has expressed serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and is seeking access – was unable to participate.

“The High Commissioner continues to engage with the Chinese authorities on the modalities for such a visit,” she said, adding that Bachelet’s office “continues to gather and analyze relevant information and follow the situation closely.”

(Reporting by Michelle NicholsEditing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alison Williams and Elaine Hardcastle)

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Ex-finance minister breached ethics rules in charity dealings

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Former Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau breached conflict-of-interest rules by not recusing himself when the government awarded a contract to a charity he had close ties to, independent ethics commissioner Mario Dion said on Thursday.

In a parallel probe, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was cleared of having broken any ethics rules when WE Charity was tapped to run a C$900 million ($740.9 million) program to help students find work during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

The charity later walked away from the contract.

Trudeau and Morneau both apologized last year for not recusing themselves during Cabinet discussions involving WE.

Trudeau’s wife, brother and mother had been paid to speak at WE Charity events in previous years, but Dion said this appearance of a conflict of interest was not “real”.

Morneau, on the other hand, was a friend of Craig Kielburger, one of the charity’s founders, Dion said. The charity had “unfettered access” to the minister’s office that “amounted to preferential treatment”, a statement said.

No fines or penalties were levied.

Morneau said on Twitter he should have recused himself. Trudeau said in a statement issued by his office that the decision “confirms what I have been saying from the beginning” that there was no conflict of interest.

Ahead of a possible federal election later this year, the opposition could use the ruling to underscore the government’s uneven track record on ethics. Trudeau has been twice been found in breach of ethics rules in the past.

In August 2019, he was found to have broken rules by trying to influence a corporate legal case, and in December 2017, the previous ethics commissioner said Trudeau had acted wrongly by accepting a vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island.

In a statement, opposition Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said: “To clean up Ottawa, Conservatives will impose higher penalties for individuals who break the Conflict of Interest Act and shine a light on Liberal cover-ups and scandals, ending them once and for all.”

The controversy over Morneau’s ties to the charity was a factor in his resignation in August last year, when he also left his parliamentary seat, saying he would not run again. Chrystia Freeland was named to take over for him a day later.

($1 = 1.2147 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jan Harvey)

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EU prepares new round of Belarus sanctions from June

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The European Union is readying a fourth round of sanctions against senior Belarus officials in response to last year’s contested presidential election and could target as many as 50 people from June, four diplomats said.

Along with the United States, Britain and Canada, the EU has already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on almost 90 officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, following an August election which opponents and the West say was rigged.

Despite a months-long crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Lukashenko, the EU’s response has been narrower than during a previous period of sanctions between 2004 and 2015, when more than 200 people were blacklisted.

The crisis has pushed 66-year-old Lukashenko back towards traditional ally Russia, which along with Ukraine and NATO member states Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, borders Belarus.

Some Western diplomats say Moscow regards Belarus as a buffer zone against NATO and has propped up Lukashenko with loans and an offer of military support.

Poland and Lithuania, where opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya fled to after the election she says she won, have led the push for more sanctions amid frustration that the measures imposed so far have had little effect.

EU foreign ministers discussed Belarus on Monday and diplomats said many more of the bloc’s 27 members now supported further sanctions, but that Brussels needed to gather sufficient evidence to provide legally solid listings.

“We are working on the next sanctions package, which I hope will be adopted in the coming weeks,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting.

The EU has sought to promote democracy and develop a market economy in Belarus, but, along with the United States, alleges that Lukashenko has remained in power by holding fraudulent elections, jailing opponents and muzzling the media.

Lukashenko, who along with Russia says the West is meddling in Belarus’ internal affairs, has sought to deflect the condemnation by imposing countersanctions on the EU and banning some EU officials from entering the country.

“The fourth package (of sanctions) is likely to come in groups (of individuals), but it will be a sizeable package,” one EU diplomat told Reuters.

More details were not immediately available.

 

(Reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels, additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin, editing by Alexander Smith)

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