Let’s get the boringly obvious out of the way. What happened in Washington on 6 January, 2021 was bad. Very bad. America, the world’s most powerful democracy, looked a horrible mess. Rioting is always wrong. Rioting on Capitol Hill on the day when power is meant to be peaceably transferred is anti-democratic and anti-conservative. Even if you believe the presidential election of 2020 election was rigged, as many ardent Trump supporters do, it is never acceptable to smash up federal property. To target America’s most important building is especially egregious. It doesn’t matter how angry you are.
Obvious point two: from the election in November to January, Donald Trump behaved irresponsibly, dangerously and stupidly. Never mind if he sincerely believed a second term was stolen from him. In 1960, Richard Nixon had very good reasons to think that ballot-stuffing in Chicago meant he lost ever so narrowly to John F. Kennedy. Nixon contemplated fighting the result. But in the end he decided to do what was best for his country: sucked up the defeat and came back to win in 1968. Democracy is often unfair. The fact that Donald Trump refused to do the same, the fact that he and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani cultivated often stark raving mad conspiracy theories as to how his opponents defrauded the nation, turned an ugly election into a democratic crisis.
But crisis is opportunity, and the widespread antipathy towards what happened that day presented America’s political class with a chance to try to restore the authority of the US Constitution over elections, to re-establish that, pace Trump, not everything is about winning and losing. The integrity of the system matters and so on.
Instead, America’s politicians, in their infinite folly, have decided to do the opposite. The January 6th Committee Hearings are farcically partisan. It is part of a highly political campaign by the Democrats to pour further scorn on the Republican party. Committees are meant to investigate; to establish what has gone wrong and find a way to do what’s right. But the Republicans and the Democrats could not agree on who should run the committee. And so the Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s proposed members in favour of her own favoured Republicans. The result is that Liz Cheney is the Committee’s vice chairwoman. On 7 January, 2021, Liz Cheney tweeted the following:
We just had a violent mob assault the Capitol in an attempt to prevent those from carrying out our Constitutional duty. There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame. pic.twitter.com/nc9WLmtfuv
— Rep. Liz Cheney (@RepLizCheney) January 7, 2021
Now, you may well think Cheney is entirely right. But doesn’t such a firm opinion, publicly expressed, make Cheney a less than ideal candidate to evaluate what happened on 6th January?
Look too at the Democratic members of the Committee. Instead of picking sensible and even-handed Democrats – there are such things – Pelosi brought in some of the most rabidly anti-Trump representatives possible. Adam Schiff, who played such a prominent part in the great waste of time that was the Trump-Russia inquiry, as well as Trump’s first impeachment. Jamie Raskin has arguably even longer form when it comes to bias. He led Trump’s second impeachment and also protested against Trump’s victory in Florida.
So what should have been a painful issue of 6 January. – at one level, simply finding out how a rabble of protestors managed to break into such a heavily policed complex; on another, establishing exactly who and what led them to do so – the Democrats turned the 6th January Committee into yet another tedious trial of Trump. Into another clear attempt to banish him from the political stage altogether and prevent a drubbing in the mid-terms in November. As the New York Times put it:
‘House Democrats plan to use a landmark set of investigative hearings beginning this week to try to refocus voters’ attention on 6 January, aiming to tie Republicans directly to an unprecedented plot to undermine democracy itself.’
President Joe Biden, for his part, has said that 6th January was ‘about white supremacy, in my opinion’. Is there evidence for that? Or does evidence not matter anymore?
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