Opinion: What the Eight January 6 Commission Hearings Can Accomplish 2022-04-29 19:00:07


These sessions, which committee chair Benny Thompson promised will be “a mixture of primetime and some regular,” are sure to produce some shocking information. Representative Jimmy Raskin gave a preview on TwitterHe said, “We now have evidence to support the story of the worst presidential political crime against the Union in American history,” and pledged that the hearings “will expose every aspect of the assault on our democracy and our Constitution in 1/6.”
In the nearly 16 months since the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, a series of revelations have emerged from news reports as well as from the commission’s investigation. coming the book By New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin also opened a disturbing window into how deeply the campaign to cancel the 2020 election was planned. And a series of text messages, provided by Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff to the committee, show the frustration and shock felt by even the most ardent Republican Trump’s efforts to advance the “big lie”. In the days after January 6, Fox hosted the New Sean Hannity She said He never wanted Trump to talk about the 2020 election again, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy considered Trump advised to resign.
But are congressional sessions important anymore? Could key hearings have the kind of impact we saw in summer 1973When the Select Committee investigating the Watergate affair helped change public opinion and urge political leaders to support the impeachment of President Richard Nixon?

It is fair to say: Probably not. If we have learned anything from the Trump presidency, it is that the forces of political polarization have ossified, making it difficult to move public opinion, even in the face of shocking scandals.

Let’s not forget, Trump has been impeached twice. Both times, the Senate failed to convict him, though There was a clue He abused his power to try to get the family of a political opponent filthy, later pushing a conspiracy theory that fueled the violence on January 6, 2021.
Over time, Republicans have lined up and downplayed Trump’s actions. Those who dared to take a stand were like Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming forsaken. Polls It also showed that a file The overwhelming majority of self-identified Republicans believe there was “large-scale fraud in the 2020 election”. And outside the Republican Party, many Democrats and independents seem to have moved on to other issues. As a result, January 6th is being treated as another story in our packed news cycle rather than the underlying constitutional crisis.
The Watergate hearings, chaired by North Carolina Senator Sam Irvine, appear to present a different model. Sessions that included 51 days of TV coverage, produced malicious information that played a significant role in burying the Nixon presidency. Most important was the discovery that Nixon had recorded White House conversations, recordings that would eventually reveal – after lengthy legal proceedings – that he had attempted to obstruct justice. The hearings also helped the public see the levels of corruption and abuse of power that came to define the Oval Office under Nixon.

There is certainly a certain level of nostalgia surrounding these hearings. There were many other factors that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation in August 1974, from fanatical journalists who continued to trace the money trail to Justice John Cerica, whose case against the Watergate thieves opened the doors to a broader corruption campaign.

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It’s also important to note that many lawmakers have not broken with the president for several months. According to a Gallup poll conducted in February 1974, only 38% Of the voters preferred impeachment. It wasn’t until the Supreme Court ruled that the administration should release the White House tapes in July 1974 that the tide turned and there were enough votes to not only impeach Nixon but to remove him from office. Finally the famous gang of Republican senators including Barry Goldwater, Hugh Scott and John Rhodes met with the president In August they told him he had little support, even among his own party.
It is hard to imagine that the January 6 hearings will lead to a similar wave of opposition against Trump. Given that the campaign against the 2020 election was conducted in broad daylight, we already know that Trump Frequent lies about election fraudfired flimsy legal campaign And He told the people It is “If you don’t fight like hell you don’t have a country anymore.” None of this was enough to shake his partisan support.

Even if the committee somehow produced a tape showing Trump openly plotting an uprising, it’s hard to imagine that it would make much of a difference.

But moving public opinion is not the primary responsibility of the House Select Committee. The purpose of the hearings is to provide an official account of what happened and to compel members of Congress to record their position in light of that information. The Watergate hearings were not intended to force Nixon to resign, but to provide a comprehensive record of the way he abused his power as president. The rest was up to others to decide.

This is the main objective of the January 6 commission in 2022. Whether or not it is capable of shocking the nation is a different matter. They need to focus on the vital role of Congress in oversight. If nothing changes, but we have a lot more by understanding how anti-democratic efforts will evolve in 2020 and 2021, our nation will still be better off. Accountability begins with accurate information. This element of accountability is what congressional committees have been able to do at their best.