Trump v Jan. 6 Select Committee

Bob Sheak, June 20, 2022

Introduction

The Jan. 6 Select Committee is praiseworthy in its efforts to add to the factual record of how on January 6, 2021 Trump and his benighted supporters tried to subvert the legitimate and peaceful transfer of presidential power. If these anti-democratic forces had been successful, then the U.S. would have lost its democracy for generations, if not permanently. The worry is that they have not given up. Indeed, they have gained momentum and are now well into the process of achieving their subversion, as they continue to challenge the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency and continue to have tens of millions of Americans who buy their anti-democratic narrative and support right-wing candidates and the attacks on majority rule.

In this post, I reconstruct this important story. The central question is whether the evidence that is being gathered by the Select Committee will achieve the goal of persuading Americans to register to vote, then vote, for candidates who offer platforms that will strengthen democracy or not. At the same time, there are dark forces in the society, continually encouraged by Trump, the Republican Party, Fox News, and other extremists, that the only road ahead for the country is one that follows a non-democratic, oligarchic (if not fascist) path.

The evidence that Trump incited the Jan. 6 rioters

In the aftermath of the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol, Democrats in the U.S. Congress attempted to impeach Trump for his involvement, but Republicans in the Senate employed the filibuster to stymie the effort. The failed impeachment of Trump occurred despite the evidence against him.

You can see the abundance of materials in support of the impeachment effort in the book, The Second Impeachment Report, written by the majority staff of the House Committee on the Judiciary (published by Hot Books, 2021). Here are some general highlights of what the staff documents.

“President Trump has engaged in a prolonged effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and maintain his grip on power. He has spent months spreading disinformation about the results – falsely claiming that he ‘won by a landslide,’ that the election was being ‘stolen,’ and that the reported results are somehow fraudulent. He has stated that it would be illegitimate to accept the results as certified by state officials and upheld by state and federal courts, and he has implied that accepting these results would pose an existential threat to the country, its democracy, and the freedoms of his political supporters. He has directly threatened government officials to ‘find’ lost votes or face criminal penalties, encouraged his own Vice President to unlawfully overturn the election results and, ultimately, incited his supporters to take violent action and present the counting of the election results.

“President Trump invited his political supporters to Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021, the day fixed by law for the counting of electoral votes. The crowd gathered in the Ellipse that morning was large, angry, and widely reported to be preparing for violent action. At that rally, the President delivered an incendiary speech to his supporters. Among other statements, President Trump reiterated false claims that ‘we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.’ He stated that ‘if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.’ And then he exhorted his supporters to ‘walk down Pennsylvania Avenue’ to prevent the Congress from confirming the election of ‘an illegitimate President’” (p. 2).

I also wrote on January 15, 2021, about the attempted Jan. 6 insurrection as one part played by Trump and the Republicans in the Senate to overturn the election results, prevent a peaceful transfer of presidential power for the first time in American history, and illegally keep Trump in the White House, in which case American democracy would have been stolen from the majority of Americans (https://vitalissuesbobsheak.com/2021/01/15/trump-the-insurrection-and-what-comes-next). Here is my introduction to this 7,600-word analysis.

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In this post, I review evidence of Trump’s false claims that the election was rigged and stolen from him and how he tried to override the election results to favor him. I then consider the answers to some questions. Why so many Americans were willing to accept Trump’s claims? How thousands were mobilized to travel to Washington D.C. with the purpose of disrupting the Joint-Session of the U.S. Congress as it was in the process of counting the already certified electoral votes? What were they told by Trump at the March to Save America rally on January 6? What did the crowd do, once it reached the Capitol building grounds? And, in concluding thoughts, I raise a series of questions that have become relevant since the attack on the U.S. Congress, while also discussing the impeachment of Trump by the U.S. House….

In the weeks before and after the presidential election, Trump proclaimed the “big lie” that the election had been rigged and stolen from him and that he, not Biden, had won the presidency by a landslide.

Trump’s efforts to win the 2020 presidential election by any means began well before the election itself, when he repeatedly said that millions of mailed-in ballots were fraudulent. Then after the election, Trump claimed that he had won the election by millions of votes – that the election was fraudulent, that millions of votes cast for Biden were invalid, that millions of votes for him were not counted, and, absurdly, that Biden must prove to him that the 80 million plus votes he received were indeed valid votes before he concedes. Susan B. Glasser writes in an article for The New Yorker on January 7th that the country “had to brace for an alarming confluence of virus denialism and election denialism between November 3rd and January 20th.” Glasser continues: “As devastating as it is for American democracy, it is no longer news that the President insists, as he did in a tweet the other day, that he is the victim of the ‘greatest Election Fraud in the history of the United States.’” Then, in the days immediately following the election, “Trump said that his goal was to ‘STOP THE COUNT,’ ‘stop the steal,’ or to demand recounts, or to discover evidence of fraud’” (https://newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trump-washington/its-not-just-trumps-war-on-democracy-anymore). Glasser further writes:

“Trump has escalated and escalated, culminating on Wednesday [Nov 9] with a single-word tweet announcing his new goal: not to win the election but to ‘#OVERTURN’ the results.” Even more strikingly, while his lawyers lost 64 court cases since the election, Trump has told millions of Americans through his Tweet account to believe that the election was rigged against him—seventy-seven per cent of Republicans now say mass fraud occurred, according to a… Quinnipiac poll out Thursday [Nov 10, 2020]—and enlisted virtually the entire national leadership of the Republican Party in his concerted attack on the legitimacy of the results.”

Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey report that “Trump has been fixated on overturning the election for weeks, making hundreds of calls to allies, lawyers, state legislators, governors and other officials and regularly huddling with outside lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others.” And Trump fed “his base through twitter that the election was rigged against him, even before he lost the election on November 3. He asked his right-wing supporters to come to Washington for a rally on December 6, when a joint-session of Congress was convening to take the final step to sanctify Biden’s victory. It was at this rally, including an assemble of some 30,000, that told the crowd to march to the US Capitol building” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-election-capitol-building).

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Trump and his allies don’t give up on the “big lie”

Republicans in the Senate acquit Trump after he is impeached by the House

John Wagner and his colleagues at the Washington Post report on the failed impeachment effort as follows

(https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/02/13/trump-impeachment-trial-live-update).

“The Senate voted Saturday [Feb. 12, 2022] to acquit Donald Trump of a charge of inciting the deadly attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, bringing the historic second impeachment trial of the former president to a close.” They add: “Fifty-seven senators voted to find Trump guilty — short of the two-thirds threshold needed for a conviction — while 43 voted to find him not guilty. Seven Republicans joined the 50 members of the Democratic caucus in voting for conviction.”

Republicans then opposed a proposed bipartisan commission for further investigation of the Jan. 6 attack

Democrats in the House did not drop the matter, given that there was additional evidence being generated all the time about the Jan. 6 attack and how Trump and others had been active in planning, inciting, and mis-leading the public about the attack. By all factual accounts, Trump was the chief inciter of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Brian Naylor fills in the details of what transpired (https://npr.org/2021/05/28/1000524897/senate-republicans-block-plan-for-independent-commission-on-jan-6-capitol-riot). He writes:

“Bipartisan legislation to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was supported by Democrats and a few Republicans in the U.S. Congress. The House approved the measure 252-175 the previous week [the last week in May, 2021] with 35 Republicans joining all Democrats in support of the plan. But in the final vote in the Senate, 54-35, “Republicans withheld the votes necessary to bring the bill up for debate. Just six GOP senators joined with the Democrats, leaving the measure short of the 60 votes needed to proceed.”

“The proposed commission was modeled on the one established to investigate the 9/11 terror attacks, with 10 commissioners — five Democrats and five Republicans — who would have subpoena powers. A Democratic chair and Republican vice chair would have had to approve all subpoenas with a final report due at the end of the year.”

Nonetheless, Republicans in the Senate, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, opposed the idea. McConnell viewed the proposals as a “purely political exercise” and said that he did “not believe… Democratic leaders would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing.” McConnell also alluded to investigations underway by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees, both of which are “looking at the response to the insurrection by police and the National Guard.” Naylor points out, however, that “neither is focused on the events leading to the incitement of the attack.”

Naylor also quotes Senate Minority Whip John Thune, who “voiced concern about a commission distracting from the party’s message heading into the 2022 midterm elections. [and that] “A lot of our members … want to be moving forward.” Trump

“attacked the effort to create the panel as a ‘Democrat trap.’”

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., opined that the Republican Senators who voted against the proposal did so “[o]ut of fear of — or fealty to — Donald Trump, and that “the Republican minority just prevented the American people from getting the full truth about Jan. 6.” Schumer added: “Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they’re afraid of Donald Trump.”

“Biden supported the commission. Speaking to reporters Friday [May 27], White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Republican senators swear ‘an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And today, unfortunately, they failed to do that.’”

“In the end,” Naylor writes, “only four other Republican senators joined Collins and Murkowski in voting to advance the bill: Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Rob Portman of Ohio. Nine Republicans and two Democrats abstained from voting.” Pat Toomey, a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, would have supported the proposal but a family commitment kept him out of Washington.

The creation of the Select Committee

As a last resort, Majority Leader Pelosi appointed a select commission, or committee, to investigate the Jan. 6 events, still vainly hoping for bipartisan support.

The January 6 Select Committee was created on June 30, 2021 by a vote on a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives. Chris Marquette reports that the vote was “222-190 to establish the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, a backup option Democrats enlisted after Senate Republicans quelled the formation of a bipartisan, independent 9/11-style commission” (https://rollcall.com/2021/06/30/house-creates-jan-6-select-committee).

The House vote in favor of the proposal included 35 House Republicans, including Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney and “all 10 GOP members who voted to impeach President Donald Trump in January for inciting the Capitol insurrection.” Sixteen Republican members did not vote. As result, Nadler writes, “The resolution empowered Pelosi to appoint eight members to the committee, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to appoint five members ‘in consultation’ with Pelosi.” 

Senate Republicans use the filibuster threat again to defeat support for the Select Committee

In the Senate, however, the Democrats could not marshal the votes to overcome another Republican filibuster. “In the Senate, a procedural vote on the commission bill earned majority support, 54-35, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rob Portman of Ohio were the only Republicans who voted to move forward on the legislation.”

Republican resistance in the House

The resolution empowered Pelosi to appoint eight members to the committee, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to appoint five members “in consultation” with Pelosi. 

Wikipedia offers the following description of what happened next.

“On July 1, Pelosi appointed eight members, seven Democrats and one Republican, Liz Cheney (R-WY); Bennie Thompson (D-MS) would serve as committee chair.[22] On July 19, McCarthy announced the five members he would recommend as the minority on the select committee. He recommended that Jim Banks (R-IN) serve as Ranking Member, and minority members be Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), and Troy Nehls (R-TX).[23] Banks, Jordan, and Nehls voted to overturn the Electoral College results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Banks and Jordan had also signed onto the Supreme Court case Texas v. Pennsylvania to invalidate the ballots of voters in four states.[24]

“On July 21, Pelosi said in a statement that she had informed McCarthy that she would reject the recommendations of Jordan and Banks, citing concerns for the investigation’s integrity and relevant actions and statements made by the two members. She approved the recommendations of the other three.[26] McCarthy then pulled all of his picks for the committee and stated that he would not appoint anyone on the committee unless all five of his choices were approved.[27][28]

After McCarthy rescinded his recommendations, Pelosi appointed Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to the committee and he became the second Republican member of the committee along with Liz Cheney. Both had rejected Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. Kinzinger has since decided not to run for office again and Cheney has been ostracized by the Republican Party and will have difficulty in future elections (e.g.,

https://cnn.com/2021/09/29/politics/liz-cheney-2024/index.html). Still, Cheney has been one of the most eloquent critics of Trump’s lies and self-serving scheming. In her opening statement at the Select Committee’s June 9 hearing, she made searing criticisms of Trump and the Republican Party, as reported by Catie Edmondson and Jonathan Martin (https://nytimes.com/2022/06/09/us/politics/liz-cheney-jan-6-vice-chair.html). Consider:

“Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, had just matter-of-factly rattled off a string of damning revelations illustrating how former President Trump had stoked the mob who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when she paused to address the members of her own party who she said were “defending the indefensible.”

“‘There will come a day when President Trump is gone,’ Ms. Cheney said. ‘But your dishonor will remain.’

Edmondson and Martin report: “She has been unrepentant in continuing to blame Mr. Trump for stoking the attack, and her Republican colleagues for following his lead by spreading the lie of a stolen presidential election.” They continue:

“Unfurling new testimony, she illustrated how Mr. Trump had persisted in pushing the fiction of a stolen election even as his top officials told him his claims of election fraud were false. And she emphasized how Mr. Trump had responded blithely when told that the rioters storming the Capitol threatened his vice president, chanting, ‘Hang Mike Pence.’

“The president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea.’ Mike Pence ‘deserves it,’ Ms. Cheney said, quoting from testimony collected by committee investigators.”

 What the Select Committee has done and plans

Already by early June, as reported by Billy House, the committee had “conducted more than 1,000 interviews and collected more than 100,000 documents, including emails and texts. It held a public hearing in July 2021 to hear testimony from police officers at the Capitol who came under attack. It’s issued at least 99 subpoenas for witness testimony and document production; in four instances where the recipient hasn’t complied, the Democratic-controlled House has voted to pursue charges of contempt of Congress”

(https://washingtonpost.com/business/what-the-jan-6-committee-has-done-and-whats-next/2022/06/06/ea08a8e0-e604-11ea-a422-11bbb01db30_story.html).

In addition, the Committee has held three hearings, on June 9, 2022, June 13, June 15, and June 16 (https://january6th.house.gov/legislation/hearings).

What the Select Committee plans to do

Amber Phillips identifies 6 takeaways from the Jan. 6 committee’s first prime-time hearing on June 9 (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/09/first-january-hearing-takeaways). Here are excerpts from 5 of the takeways that give us a sense of the committee’s evidence. There are other sources that describe the highlights of the second hearing (e.g., https://npr.org/2022/06/13/1104657476/recap-jan-6-committee-hearing), and third hearing (e.g., https://cnn.com/politics/live-news/jauary-6-hearings-june-16/index.html).

Excerpts from Phillips article

#1 – The committee holds Trump responsible for the attack – “The committee said it will present evidence that the president “refused for hours to do what his staff, his family and many of his other advisers begged him to do: immediately instruct his supporters to stand down and evacuate the Capitol,” “yelled at advisers who told him to act,” and “cheered on the protesters’ most violent tendencies,” while being aware “of the rioters chanting to ‘hang Mike Pence,’ the president responded with this sentiment: ‘Maybe our supporters have the right idea. [Mike Pence] deserves it.’” Additionally, Cheney said, “the committee will present evidence that Trump made not a single call to the Defense Department or other national security agencies during the attack. The committee played testimony from Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that it was Vice President Mike Pence who made those calls.”

#2 – How the committee plans to tell its story

“The committee opened by seeking to jolt the American public back to that violent day with never-before-seen footage of the attackers marching up to the Capitol and smashing windows to get in, overwhelming Capitol Police officers. “We can’t hold this, there are too many f——g people. Look at it from this vantage point. We’re f—-d,” one officer says.” There is evidence that “Trump ignored…the rulings of our nation’s courts,” and “ignored his own campaign leadership.” The committee “played video of Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, who told the committee he resigned in the final month of the administration in part because Trump was trying to wrestle his way to staying in power: ‘I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit,’ Barr said.”

Barr told Trump that he did not believe the election was stolen

“Later, the committee will spend a significant amount of time on the pressure Trump and his allies put on Pence to overturn the election results on Jan. 6, something Pence said was ‘wrong.’ They’ll also talk about how Trump ‘corruptly pressured’ state legislators and election officials to change election results, and will shed new light on the Trump campaign’s efforts to set up slates of false electors in states he’d lost.”

“Finally, the committee will revisit the day of the riot, accusing Trump of having “summoned” right-wing groups to attack the Capitol, then resisting calls by his allies and family members to tell the attackers to go home.”

#3 – A sharp attack on Trump’s Republican defenders

“Top Republican lawmakers — even Pence, whose life was threatened by the attackers — have spent the year and a half since the attack downplaying what happened. It’s now a badge of honor in some circles to have been in D.C. protesting the election results or to be labeled an insurrectionist.

“Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) compared those who have justified what happened to those who defended slavery and the Civil War.”

#4 – How Trump influenced the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys

“The committee alleges that right-wing extremist groups were motivated by Trump himself. The committee spent a large chunk of Thursday’s hearing introducing Americans to two of these groups — the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — and making the case for how Trump’s statements and tweets influenced their actions and eventually, their violence.

“The committee presented evidence that membership of the Proud Boys ‘tripled’ after Trump praised the group in a presidential debate toward the end of the election campaign. The hearing also featured footage of rioters reading aloud, over a bullhorn, a tweet Trump sent attacking Pence for his lack of ‘courage.’ And when Trump tweeted ahead of Jan. 6, ‘Be there, will be wild,’ the committee said that these extremist groups took it as “a call to arms.”

“Filmmaker Nick Quested, who embedded with the Proud Boys that day, testified that some group members went to the Capitol early that morning; others left the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally on the Ellipse to march to the Capitol before Trump’s speech even began. They didn’t seem very interested in hearing Trump speak, which Quested said confused him at the time. But he described the group’s atmosphere as ‘much darker’ than usual.

“The hearing also featured interviews with several men charged in the riot who said they came because Trump told them to. ‘We were invited by the president of the United States!’ an attacker yells in footage from that day.

Rioters: ‘Trump asked us to come’

“A video from the Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 9 featured rioters explaining why they went to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Video: The Washington Post)

And the committee presented evidence that the groups took credit for the attack. ‘Make no mistake. We did this,’ the leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, said in an encrypted text, according to a Justice Department indictment of Tarrio. He and four of his top lieutenants were recently charged with seditious conspiracy — allegations that they conspired to overthrow the government. The leaders of the Oath Keepers have also been charged with this.

#5 – The production value of Night 1

“Throughout June, the committee has to weave together thousands of hours of testimony, tens of thousands of documents, more than 1,000 people interviewed — and make it all coherent, compelling and as concise as Congress can be. In its first prime-time hearings, the committee did that expertly.

“Over a period of two hours Thursday (relatively short for a congressional hearing), the committee aired snippets of about a dozen pretaped interviews, including Trump’s former attorney general; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner (who said he thought the White House counsel’s threats to resign over the election fraud push was “whining”); his daughter Ivanka Trump (testifying that she accepted the Justice Department’s assessment that the election wasn’t stolen); Trump campaign officials; and attackers who are now serving sentences for breaching the Capitol.”

Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards testified and showed “played graphic footage of protesters knocking her unconscious with a police barricade. After she recovered, she went to the front lines again and served alongside Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, who suffered two strokes and later died. She described how she and Sicknick were tear-gassed and knocked down repeatedly, calling it ‘a war scene.’

“I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood,” said Edwards, later adding, ‘It was carnage.’”

Officer Edwards on Jan. 6: ‘It was carnage, it was chaos’

Will the Select Committee’s investigations have the desired political impact?

The committee’s efforts will not change the views of Trump, his allies, and his huge, cult-like electoral base. Most Democratic voters will be influenced by the Select Committee’s findings. They will vote against Republican candidates, and the committee’s findings may be one factor influencing that decision. It’s not at all clear whether Independents will vote for Democratic candidates. They may blame Biden and the Democrats for the current inflation, which is currently the top issue for most Americans. Right now, the most prevalent view is that Republicans will take back the U.S. House of Representatives and many state offices and have a chance even to win back the Senate. If that happens, then the Select Committee will be eliminated and Congress will cease investigating the Jan. 6 riots and attempted insurrection.

Republicans are poised to win one of both chambers of the U.S. Congress in 2022

Politico rated every race in play in 2022 and found that the Senate “leans Republican” and the House is likely to go Republican (https://www.politico.com/2022-election/race-forecasts-ratings-and-predictions).

Anthony Zurcher writes (https://bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-61280069) the following.

“The Republican party is widely expected to win back at least one chamber of Congress in the mid-term elections later this year. But its leaders have been reluctant to say what it would do with that power — and that could mean trouble in the not-so-long run.

“Some Republican 2024 presidential hopefuls have each released multi-point policy agendas that they may try to build a campaign around. But those in the Republican congressional leadership seem to believe that the path to power will be smoother if they keep the details of their agenda intentionally vague. It keeps their party united and gives Democrats less of a target to attack.

“For the seventh time in 22 years, control of at least one chamber of the US Congress appears poised to switch to the opposing party, and this time, it’s the Republicans who have the upper hand.

“According to polls, a plurality of Americans plan to vote for Republican congressional candidates – a good sign of impending success. And they only need to flip a handful of seats to take control.”

Other factors that favor Trump and his supporters

As indicated, Trump’s supporters will not be influenced by any findings of the Jan. 6 Select Committee.

The millions who have supported Trump and his dominance in the Republican Party are unlikely to be influenced by any of the evidence from the Jan. 6 Select Committee. Jason Lange reports on a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, completed on June 8, that believe that “[m]ore than half of U.S. Republicans believe the false claim that left-wing protesters led the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot to try to make then-President Donald Trump look bad” (https://reuters.com/world/us/half-us-republicans-believe-left-led-jan-6-violence-reutersipsos-2022-06-09).

The partisan divide is intensified by social media

This is the view of political scientists identified by Thomas B. Edsall in his June 15, 2022, New York Times column titled “We’re Staring at Our Phones, Full of Rage for the “Other Side” (https://nytimes.com/2022/06/15/opinion/social-media-polarization-democracy.html). Here is an few example.

“…in a November 2021 paper, “How social media shapes polarization,” Jay J. Van BavelElizabeth HarrisClaire Robertson and Anni Sternisko, all of N.Y.U., and Steve Rathje of the University of Cambridge concluded that ‘social media shapes polarization through the following social, cognitive, and technological processes: partisan selection, message content, and platform design and algorithm.’ Although they cautioned that “social media is unlikely to be the main driver of polarization, we posit that it is often a key facilitator.”

“On the internet, Van Bavel and his colleagues write:

“Not only do people seek out politically congruent information, they also update their beliefs more when that information supports what they already believe (asymmetric updating). Finally, they are more willing to share politically congruent information online. These cognitive biases in information seeking, belief updating, and sharing may all increase polarization.

“Not just polarization, but negative or hostile polarization, Van Bevel and his co-authors point out:

“Divisive social media messages tend to receive more engagement, which might contribute to polarization. An analysis of nearly 3 million social media posts found that posts about the political out-group (often reflecting out-group animosity) were more likely to be shared than those about the political in-group. Each additional out-group word (e.g., “liberal” or “Democrat” for a Republican post) increased the odds of that post being shared by 67 percent and increased the volume of “angry” reactions on Facebook.”

Polls find that there is a declining percentage of Americans who view Trump as the instigator of the Jan. 6 riots

Zach Beauchamp reports, as follows (https://vox.com/2022/6/8/23156442/january-6-committee-trump-polarization-fatigue).

“In the nearly year and a half since the Capitol riot, it has only grown dimmer in the public imagination. Two polls, from Pew and NBC News, found that the percentage of Americans who believe Trump is responsible for the January 6 attack has declined significantly over the course of the year. That number has fallen among both Republicans and Democrats, suggesting it’s the result of people seemingly forgetting the former president’s pivotal role in inciting the riot.

“Perhaps the committee’s hearings can reverse this trend among Democrats (and independents), but Republicans are almost certainly a different story.

“Trump’s grip on the GOP remains quite strong — certainly strong enough to convince the vast majority of Republicans not to abandon him over an attack in which they sympathize with the attackers. And there’s little evidence to believe that a GOP base that hates both Democrats and the mainstream media will be persuaded by coverage of hearings; they’re more likely to be swayed by the counter-programming that’s sure to come on Fox News and talk radio.

“Absent any kind of national consensus on the importance of January 6, it’s hard to imagine the hearings leading to an outcome that might deter those responsible from trying to steal another election.”

Republican candidates with January 6 ties are winning primaries for competitive House seats

Dan Merica documents this trend (https://cnn.com/2022/06/12/politics/january-6-republican-candidates-house-elections/Index.html). Here’s some of what he reports.

“…across the country…Republican candidates with alleged ties to the events in Washington, DC , on January 6 — from Annie Black in Nevada to Jason Riddle in New Hampshire to Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin — are on the ballot for competitive seats.

“Not all candidates who were in DC on January 6 to protest the 2020 election have won, but the results from Ohio and North Carolina make clear that the association with January 6 isn’t a disqualifying factor with many Republican primary voters.”

Amy Gardner and Isaac Arnsdorf report, “More than 100 GOP primary winners back Trump’s false fraud claims (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/14/more-than-100-gop-primary-winners-back-trumps-false-fraud-claims).

Amid growing economic difficulties in people’s lives, there is evidence that many are preoccupied with other issues than Jan. 6

Dan Balz and Marianna Sotomayor consider “key issues” for the upcoming 2022 midterms (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2022/key-issues-voting-2022-midterms). Here’s some of what they found.

 “Democrats and Republicans agree that inflation has been the preeminent political issue this spring — at least until the leak of a draft ruling that suggested the Supreme Court might overturn Roe v. Wade. The abortion issue now threatens to upend election calculations. But voters will also be hearing about crime, education, immigration and jobs before they cast their ballots.” However, inflation and the economy seem to top the others.

Balz and Sotomayor find,

“Inflation is a constant presence in the minds of voters when buying groceries, filling their gas tanks or paying their home heating bills. There is no escaping from it, and unless there is a significant easing in the next few months, it will continue as one of the top issues of concern.

“The issue overshadows what is otherwise an economic story that the Biden administration would like to talk about, especially the number of jobs created and low unemployment rate. Democrats also see possible ways to soften concerns about rising prices by talking about their efforts to lower the cost of, say, prescription drugs. It could be a hard sell.

“The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll finds nearly 7 in 10 Americans disapprove of the way President Biden has handled the inflation issue. Fifty percent say they trust Republicans to handle the issue, compared with 31 percent who say they trust Democrats more.”

Concluding thoughts

Ankush Khardori, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, is a Politico Magazine contributing editor, argues that simply “revealing what happened” can make a difference in buttressing opposition to Trump and the Republicans (https://politico.com/news/magazine/2022/04/12/jan-6-house-select-committee-criminal-referral-00024654). His key point is as follows.

“Thus far, the committee, which has conducted more than 1,000 witness interviews, has already generated an array of discrete and significant revelations, despite being hampered by many Republicans’ refusal to cooperate. The hearings, however, will provide the public’s first insight into whether the committee has been able to answer, in something approximating an authoritative and comprehensive manner, some of the major questions within its broad investigative purview. Those questions may concern what happened on Jan. 6 itself, the failure of federal law enforcement to adequately safeguard the Capitol that day or, perhaps most importantly, the broader, extra-legal campaign by former President Donald Trump, along with his supporters and allies, to overturn the results of the election.”

All this is true. However, as noted, there are competing narratives and experiences that may counter such evidence. Nonetheless, a democracy can only work properly if there are enough informed citizens who are willing to vote, if some are willing to engage in the political processes, and if there are viable political options. Being informed about the relevant facts is important, but may not be enough to save American democracy.

The other side inhabits a political space that rejects verifiable facts and that is unquestioning in its submission to the anti-democratic Trump and right-wing interests and values. It is not far-fetched to think that the U.S. may be at the dawn of a fascist state that will favor oligarchs, advance the interests of the rich and powerful, white supremacists, the gun lobby, Christian nationalists, while systematically suppressing voting rights, severely restricting immigration, reproductive rights, and encouraging armed and violent militias.

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