U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley said Sunday that there was a “crisis of American men,” attacking liberal ideology and an array of political beliefs and cultural touchpoints that he believes are degrading traditional ideas of masculinity.
Missouri’s junior senator’s comments came during a keynote speech to the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida. He outlined what he called a “decline of men” in the United States, one that he called a “crisis for the American republic” and blamed primarily on liberal policymaking and changing cultural norms.
“I am not here tonight to tell you that men are victims,” Hawley said. “The last thing we need more of in this country is the victim mindset.
“Responsibility is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind, and men must be held responsible for their actions. Still, can we be surprised that after years of being told they are the problem, that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are withdrawing into the enclave of idleness and pornography and video games.”
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Hawley leveled blame at numerous people and institutions — chiefly liberals and progressives, who he referred to broadly as “the Left” throughout his speech — and at times broached other topics, such as systemic racism.
He targeted two of the most prominent Democrats in the country, President Joe Biden and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as having advanced a “deconstructionist” agenda and a “men are the problem mantra.” Hawley said Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors “puts millions of working men squarely in the cross hairs,” equating it to saying “shut up, get the jab, or get lost.”
“Over the last 30 years and more, government policy has helped destroy the kind of economy that gave meaning to generations of men,” Hawley said, pointing to a decline in marriage rates and government dollars spent from the social safety net as evidence.
“For centuries, lovers of liberty have praised these qualities as the highest standard of manhood,” Hawley said. “That’s not to say that women don’t possess them. But it is to say that these virtues are the bright side of the aggression and competitiveness and independence that psychologists, no less than philosophers, have long observed in men.”
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Hawley’s criticism was not just limited to his political opponents — he also went after universities who have held seminars and events regarding masculinity, Hollywood films that show “the toxic masculinity theme ad nauseum,” and the “expert class” of institutions such as the American Psychological Association, which promotes research on the psychological and mental effects of certain frames of masculinity.
The senator’s comments caught attention on social media Monday. Jason Kander, a Democrat who ran for U.S. Senate against Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016, wrote, “if Josh Hawley is an expert on masculinity then I’d like to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on quantum physics.” A clip of Hawley’s comments on video games and pornography in particular gained traction.
He ended his speech Sunday with calls to action, asking attendees to “employ working men at living wages,” mandating that half of “all goods and supplies critical for our national security be made in the United States,” and arguing for a “marriage bonus” within the tax code to reward tying the knot.
Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at email@example.com, (573) 219-7440 or on Twitter @galenbacharier.