Josh Hawley grew up in Lexington, Missouri, about an hour from Kansas City, with a banker dad and a teaching mom – and a Stanford graduate herself. He arrived on the university’s idyllic campus in the heart of Silicon Valley in the fall of 1998. It was the height of the first dot-com bubble. Computer science graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin had just signed the documents to integrate their search engine, BackRub, under the new name of Google, Inc. It seemed like almost everyone on campus had visions of dropping out. university and become the next Jerry Yang, the Stanford alumnus who founded Yahoo, who had recently been dubbed a “kingmaker” of the internet.
In Washington, President Bill Clinton’s impeachment was just beginning, but on the Palo Alto campus, aside from the spectacle of Secret Service officers lagging behind first girl Chelsea, then a sophomore, or US Marshals camped behind Ken Starr’s daughter’s first year dormitory. , Carolyn, the collective undergraduate population couldn’t have cared less. While students generally adopted a socially liberal ethic, few were actively engaged in politics.
In that sense, Hawley stood out from the start. As a prep school student before college, he had previously written several political columns for his hometown newspaper, and at Stanford he joined the Stanford Critic, the right-wing student publication founded more than a decade earlier by the Silicon Valley mogul Peter Thiel. There is little indication that Hawley was particularly interested or concerned with the burgeoning Big Tech scene, as it is today. But, unlike the vast majority of his peers at the time, he was clearly conservative and politically inclined.
“He was very sure of his political ideology, even at that age, even at 18,” says Brooke Eisele, who also wrote for the Review and had been a close friend of Hawley’s since the time they both lived in the same freshman dorm. “I think a lot of us came with our predispositions and felt and shaped things there. He came with a rock-solid worldview.
According to many classmates, Hawley was nonetheless friendly to the Liberals, and his worldview, while rare among the student body, was not outside the mainstream. Eisele, who until recently worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the Republican Majority but has lost contact with Hawley, describes him as having been “a classic conservative in every sense of the word”. Brad Gregory, another former Hawley history professor who now teaches at Notre Dame, says of Hawley’s beliefs: “It was an entirely intellectually responsible Burkaian conservatism, kind of tradition – the importance of tradition, the importance of established institutions, limited government, individual responsibility and freedom. “
His sophomore year, Hawley told the student newspaper he believed there was a “continuing decline at Stanford of all political activism”. But to the extent that he was an activist himself, it was for relatively mundane causes such as the seemingly perpetual debate at Stanford over what the university’s core humanities curriculum should involve. Hawley, along with her friend Rachel Scarlett-Trotter, formed a student group called the Freedom Forum which recommended for the inclusion of more texts that force students to “examine the ideas and thinkers that have shaped Western civilization”. (Scarlett-Trotter declined to comment for this story.)
Hawley’s other writings for the Review, say colleagues at the student publication, were far from inflammatory, as the publication often can be. In one piece, Hawley has taken positive action, but only to say that students of color should be given more tools to be successful long before they go to college.
“He wasn’t like one of those people like Stephen Miller, who insulted the Liberals and fueled the culture wars on campus, at least not to my knowledge, ”said a classmate who knew Hawley but spoke only on condition of anonymity for fear of being violently targeted by supporters of the senator. Professor Emeritus Jack Rakove, another Hawley teacher and mentor, also singled out Hawley from his latest adviser, the new Home Policy Council Director Susan Rice. Son supporting Trump, graduated from Stanford last year. On campus, John Rice-Cameron “has adopted that kind of provocative, sometimes even offensive, conservative character like ‘own the libs,’ or whatever,” Rakove says. “Josh wasn’t like that. He wasn’t like that at all.
Still, say some classmates, there were allusions to Hawley’s current policies, which have a populist tinge but appear to be entrenched by a Christian nationalist point of view. Many of them remember him as someone who took his gospel faith seriously enough to shape his civic worldview. Colin Mathewson, who studied the Bible with Hawley when they lived in the same freshman dorm and was his roommate one summer in Washington when Hawley interned at the Heritage Foundation, said Hawley’s politics seemed to come from “From a religious source and had a religious character. of goal to him. In my experience with Josh, politics was secondary to what kind of religious truth was.
Another classmate remembers Hawley, who today loudly denounces America’s growing ungodliness, speaking of a “community brand of social conservatism”, in contrast to the libertarianism that most other conservatives have of campus have married.
Thinking back to Hawley’s senior year, Rakove, the history professor, recalls a department opening address Hawley gave that reflected “the idea that there was a kind of moral consistency in the conservative thinking that might be absent at other points along the ideological spectrum. Rakove has long forgotten the exact content of the speech, he says, but the theme and tone were more memorable.
Hawley wrote his honors thesis on the political philosophies of Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Kennedy, who advised him on the job, says he can see in them the first indications of Hawley’s current ideology: Hawley rejected Roosevelt’s more state-driven impulses, according to Kennedy, but was “tempted” by the Rooseveltian view that “the role of government is to foster community thinking and feeling. In the 2008 delivered Hawley published on the basis of his dissertation (captioned “Preacher of Righteousness” and with a laudatory foreword from Kennedy), Hawley wrote with approval of Roosevelt’s view of politics as “deeply moral enterprise.” More recently, the senator has continued to emulate the 26th President in his emergence as a conservative-populist trustbuster, while incorporating anti-secularism even more fervently than Roosevelt in his community politics.
Other classmates, however, say that while Hawley was staunchly against abortion, his faith in college seemed less of an obvious motivation for his political aspirations and more of a guide for his social interactions. Friends of Hawley’s told POLITICO they had never seen Hawley drink, smoke or “bring a girl back” to his dorm. According to many accounts, he preferred to stay and study on weekend nights rather than go out and party.
“I didn’t even realize until last week that the Josh Hawley in the news was the Josh Hawley who lived in GiveSays Scott Finkelstein, one of the resident assistants in Hawley’s first year dorm. “I mean, he was pretty calm as far as I can remember.”
‘He had his eyes on the prize’