Ahead of the joint congressional session last year certifying then-President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 victory, Josh Hawley of Missouri became the first Republican Senator to announce he'd object to the counting the electoral votes in swing states former President Donald Trump lost.
It was a crucial development in Trump's effort to subvert the results of the 2020 election, because any objection to the counting of a state's electoral votes must be backed by both a Senator and a Representative in order to go to the respective chambers for votes. While at least some of the 435 House members have objected on principle to the counting of electoral votes in the past, rarely are these objections backed by anyone in the 100-member Senate.
Hawley's embrace of Trump's election lies and his support for Trump ahead of the joint session predictably ingratiated him with Trump's base. On the morning of January 6, 2021, Hawley was met with cheers from Trump supporters outside the Capitol, and raised a fist to them in solidarity.
Hours later, after news broke that then-Vice President Mike Pence wouldn't succumb to Trump's pressure campaign to unilaterally throw out electoral votes of swing states that went for Biden, a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol in defense of the election lies promulgated by Trump and supported by Hawley.
They shattered windows, ransacked offices, smeared excrement across the walls, beat police officers, and called for the execution of any lawmaker they perceived as disloyal to Trump.
In the immediate aftermath, Hawley's fist bump became one of the defining images of that day, with Americans across the country decrying him for promoting the lies that led to the attack. Hawley's mentor, Former Missouri Senator John Danforth, said supporting Hawley's Senate bid was "the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life." Simon & Schuster canceled plans to publish Hawley's memoir "after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”
But in the 13 months since the Capitol attack, Republicans have successfully downplayed the insurrection, often with claims that are completely at odds with reality. Republican Congressman Andrew Clyde of Georgia likened the insurrection to a "normal tourist visit." Far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson has devoted an entire miniseries to baselessly claiming the attack was orchestrated by the federal government to demonize Trump supporters.
And now, the photo that some thought would end Hawley's career is being promoted by his campaign, which has emblazoned the image on $20 mugs with the words, "Show-me strong."
A campaign email advertising the mug read:
"Liberals are so easily triggered, and this new mug is really whipping the left into a frenzy! Josh isn't scared—he's show-me strong! This Made in America mug is the perfect way to enjoy Coffee, Tea, or Liberal Tears! Check it out below or order one for yourself or any woke friend or family member that you want to trigger!"
It was the latest confirmation that, for Republican elected officials and candidates, the deadly failed insurrection is no longer a national shame, but a promotional tool.
Hawley's use of the image disgusted social media users.
Some saw it as an encapsulation of current social and political dynamics in the United States.
Hawley isn't up for reelection until 2024.