Proposing a forward-looking vision for conservative solutions to emerging technological and social challenges, Missouri senator Josh Hawley took to the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon to deliver his first speech since his election last fall.
Hawley previewed his speech in an interview with the Washington Post yesterday where he expressed openness to breaking up Facebook and said the growing gig economy may "drain away value from the great middle of our society."
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Opening his speech praising the men and women of his hometown of Lexington, Mo., Hawley described it as "a place where people wake early and work late to make a life for themselves and their children."
But Hawley suggested these men and women, of what he called the "great American middle," are "confronting crisis today, and as they do, so does our democracy."
Pointing his aim at the "arrogant aristocracy," that wants "to remake society in their own image, to engineer an economy that works for the elite but few else, to fashion a culture that is dominated by their own preferences," Hawley sought to offer a way forward to address the ailments facing the American middle class.
With rates of suicide, depression, and loneliness on the rise, Hawley suggested policymakers should not be surprised, as "today's youth must make their way in a society increasingly defined not by the general win and personal love of family and church, but by the cold and judgmental world of social media."
Hawley's speech Wednesday echoes themes he touched upon in an early May appearance at the Hoover Institution.
In that speech, Hawley highlighted the increased rate of depression among teenagers and older Americans correlated with the growth of social media usage.
"Here is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy," Hawley declared. Hawley noted the "benign effects" of social media platforms like Facebook which encourage passive digital actions such as likes, comments, and shares over human interactions.
In his maiden Senate floor speech on Wednesday, Hawley said it was incumbent upon policymakers in Washington, D.C., to stop "rehashing policy debates of 30 or 40 years ago," and instead declared, "the 21st century is upon us, and the great struggle of this century can no longer wait."
Reviving the "great American middle" is within reach, Hawley said, calling on policymakers to focus on solutions that do not just create a "bigger economy but a better society."
"We must ask new questions, force new debates, articulate new priorities, and find new solutions to make the great American middle thrive again," Hawley continued.
Concluding his speech, Hawley said the task ahead of solving these problems will not be solved in a day or a week but rather is "the work of a generation."