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Why it matters that donors rewarded Hawley's anti-election efforts

The message to Republicans is obvious: you, too, can get a fundraising and media boost, while shredding your reputation. Just follow Josh Hawley's lead.
Image: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. raises his fist toward a crowd of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered outside the Capitol
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. raises his fist toward a crowd of supporters of President Donald Trump gathered outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.Francis Chung / E&E News and Politico via AP Images

The first few months of 2021 have been quite eventful for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), starting with the senator's anti-election efforts that turned him into a political "pariah" on Capitol Hill.

But as regular readers know, that's really just the start. Hawley has been denounced by former allies; businesses don't want anything to do with him; several independent media outlets have called on the Missouri Republican to resign in disgrace; and several of his Senate colleagues have filed an ethics complaint against him.

Hawley, however, acts like a politician who doesn't have any regrets. To understand why, consider this Politico report on the GOP senator's recent fundraising.

Sen. Josh Hawley raised more than $3 million during the first three months of the year, underscoring how the Missouri Republican converted his high-profile opposition to the certification of the 2020 election into big fundraising support. The freshman senator drew widespread attention for leading the Jan. 6 effort to block the acceptance of the Electoral College results, a controversial stand that liberals and some Republicans claim undermined faith in the political system. But he won plaudits from loyalists of former President Donald Trump, who opened their wallets.

In case this isn't obvious, Hawley's current Senate term isn't up until 2024. We might expect to see an incumbent raise more than $3 million in the first quarter of an election year, but for the Missouri Republican, that's still on the horizon.

Many conservative donors, however, don't appear to care. Hawley took an aggressive stand against his own country's democracy, at which point the money started rolling in.

It serves as a reminder of political dynamics that are evolving quickly in defiance of traditional models. Senators once feared being ostracized from their colleagues and mentors, but in 2021, folks like Hawley -- and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who reportedly raised $3.2 million in the first three months of the year -- can shrug off the contempt they've generated among those around them.

Indeed, the banishment itself becomes the basis for new financial appeals: "The 'establishment' doesn't like me," these Republicans effectively say, "so send me even more money."

Folks like Hawley don't need political parties or committees; they need small donors willing to reward radicalism via a website.

What's more, circling back to our earlier coverage, the system of incentives for all Republicans is every bit as important. On the surface, the Missourian appears to have suffered a brutal setback: Hawley has lost his colleagues' respect and his professional reputation lies in tatters.

But just below the surface, the GOP senator is right where he wants to be: raking in money from far-right donors, positioning himself as an heir to Trump's most rabid followers, and appearing regularly in conservative media as a far-right darling -- as was the case just last night. Hawley won't be able to get anything done on Capitol Hill, but it's a price he's willing to pay.

The related message to every other Republican is obvious: you, too, can get a fundraising and media boost, while shredding your credibility and reputation. All you have to do is follow Josh Hawley's lead.