In a column for the Atlantic, a former White House official who served in President George W. Bush's administration said that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is the latest example of the decline of the Republican Party that has accelerated with the election of Donald Trump.
Peter Wehner, a religious conservative who has been a virulent opponent of Donald Trump, said the president might be gone, but "cowards" like Hawley will remain behind doing damage of the country and the Republican Party.
Wehner's comments mirror an opinion piece by the editors of the conservative Wall Street Journal.
Writing that anyone hoping for the Republican Party to return to its roots and values after Trump leaves office after January 20th is going to highly disappointed, Wehner singled out Hawley for his plan to contest the election results on the floor of the Senate despite no evidence of voter fraud.
As the former White House official explained the Missouri Republican knows fully well that his efforts will fail, but is forging ahead because he wants the attention and he has no qualms about making outrageous Trumpian allegations. Hawley's key motivation is running for president in 2024, Wehner said.
"It is one thing for Hawley to position himself as a populist, something he had done even before he was elected in 2018; it is quite another for him to knowingly engage in civic vandalism and, in ostentatiously unpatriotic ways, undermine established norms and safeguards," he wrote. "This is precisely what Senator Hawley is now doing—and he is doing so in the aftermath of Trump's loss, when some political observers might have hoped that the conspiracy mindset and general insanity of the Trump modus operandi would begin to lose their salience."
According to Wehner, Hawley will not be the last Republican to look at the Trump playbook and use it to elevate their profile in the drive for power.
"What is happening in the GOP is that figures such as Hawley, along with many of his Senate and House colleagues, and important Republican players, including the former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, are all trying to position themselves as the heirs of Trump," he suggested before accusing, "The problem with the Republican 'establishment' and with elected officials such as Josh Hawley is not that they are crazy, or that they don't know any better; it is that they are cowards, and that they are weak. They are far more ambitious than they are principled, and they are willing to damage American politics and society rather than be criticized by their own tribe."
He then added a final warning.
"Whether the Republican Party can be salvaged is very much an open question. I don't know the answer. But here is what I do know: Patriotic Republicans and conservatives need to fight for the soul of the Republican Party, for its sake and for the sake of the nation," he wrote. "America needs two healthy and sane political parties. Trump's departure on January 20 should open up space for at least a few brave and responsible figures to arise, to help ground the GOP in truth rather than falsehoods, reality instead of fantasy, and to use the instruments of power for the pursuit of justice. "