Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — perhaps best known as the U.S. senator who raised his fist in solidarity before a mob of white supremacists and Donald Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to try to stop Joe Biden from being certified as president — introduced a bill on Monday that he says is about promoting people’s love of America.
The Love America Act would “promote patriotism in education” by not allowing federal money to go to any public schools that teach students how white supremacy or racism played a role in the founding of the United States. It would also require schools that receive federal dollars to ensure that students read and recite portions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Pledge of Allegiance at specific grade levels.
“We cannot afford for our children to lose faith in the noble ideals this country was founded on,” Hawley said in a statement. “We have to make sure that our children understand what makes this country great, the ideals of hope and promise our Founding Fathers fought for, and the love of country that unites us all.”
Hawley was one of 147 Republicans who rejected American democracy on Jan. 6 by voting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election — a move that was based on the lie about voter fraud that fueled the insurrection in the first place. The attack that day resulted in more than 140 police officers being injured and another three deaths.
He was also one of 139 Republicans who later voted to block the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate what led to the insurrection and how to prevent such an attack from ever happening again.
And on July 4, he was one of the dozens of Republicans publicly celebrating the U.S. as “the greatest nation in the history of the world,” despite having previously lied to the American public to justify his vote against democracy.
Hawley’s bill isn’t actually about promoting patriotism, either. The senator is associating himself with a broader, nationwide effort by conservative Republicans to enact laws that prevent the teaching of “critical race theory,” an academic discipline centered on the idea that racism is an everyday experience for most people of color, that this has shaped the country’s legal and social systems, and that a large part of society has no interest in changing this reality because it benefits white people.
Conservatives have settled on attacking this niche academic discipline, which isn’t even taught in K-12 schools, to claim that they love America more than Democrats because they only want to talk about the positive aspects of the country’s founding.
It’s no coincidence that some of the loudest Republicans on this issue, including the Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas are potential contenders in the 2024 presidential race. Both governors have touted their efforts to pass laws to ban schools from talking about critical race theory — which, again, is not even taught in K-12 schools.
“It’s a strange dynamic we’re seeing: Florida and Texas are trying to outcompete each other to see who can pass the most far-right Neanderthal legislation,” Democratic Texas state Rep. James Talarico told HuffPost in May. “The focus is not children. The focus is on scoring points with old, white voters who see the country slipping away from them demographically.”