In 2016, Donald Trump and his band of deplorables devoured Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential aspirations.
With mockery, misinformation and straight-up malicious insults (about Cruz’s wife and father, no less), Trump effectively ejected the Texas Republican from the conservative movement. The Ted Cruz we see today is a broken man who shamelessly crawled back to grovel before Trump, the movement’s true leader. And he was only allowed back once he became the full-on right-wing caricature — a meme lord, an internet troll — the movement demanded him to be.
With his presidential aspirations squandered, Cruz has become nothing more than a court jester for the conservative movement.
I see a similar future for GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
The House Jan. 6 committee humiliated Hawley during last week’s hearing, with a video depicting him running from the violent mob in the Capitol after raising a fist in solidarity with Trump supporters outside the building earlier in the day.
The Cannon Caucus Room, where the hearings are held in a House office building on Capitol Hill, erupted with laughter when the committee played the video.
Online, it spurred “Run, Hawley, run” memes galore, including this rather elaborate thread featuring the video synced to various songs.
Several Missouri newspapers flamed Hawley in the aftermath. The sports outlet SB Nation even got mathematical with it by calculating Hawley’s 40-meter dash time — it was 7.2 seconds, by the way. And former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who was savagely beaten by the mob Hawley encouraged and ran from, didn’t mince words when describing the senator’s action.
So far, it seems as though Hawley is trying to laugh through it — or lean into it. He was hawking mugs with his infamous raised-fist moment on Twitter a day after the Jan. 6 committee dropped the video. And in a speech at the Turning Point USA conference last week, Hawley seemed to make a passing reference to his viral moment while claiming he’d been victimized by liberals.
On Wednesday, a totally-not-irritated Hawley doubled down on his infamous fist pump, claimed the committee “attacked” him and thanked it for helping his fundraising.
Hawley’s defiant tone aside, these seem like the actions of a man who sees his aspirations for higher office going up in flames. Now a meme in his own right, the senator would do well to get acquainted with another well-known image: the “laugh to cover up my crying” meme.
We are witnessing the “Ted Cruzification” of Josh Hawley: a complete loss of political seriousness. The justifiable-yet-pitiful reduction of a man to an internet meme.
But not all is lost for Hawley. He may find success in his newfound role as a right-wing laughingstock. We know at least one GOPer found jokes about his escape from the Capitol pretty funny.