The January 6th Committee Preaches to the Choir

From a Washington Post column by Gary Abernathy headlined “The Jan. 6 committee preaches to the choir”:

There are few things as irritating as a preacher who just won’t end his sermon until someone, anyone, finally steps forward to confess and repent, regardless of how far most minds long ago drifted off to thoughts of football, afternoon naps and Sunday dinner.

That’s what the tedious Jan. 6 committee feels like, with committee members determined to convince everyone, no matter how tired, uninterested or skeptical, that former president Donald Trump is evil incarnate, that his followers are dangerously wayward enablers, and that renouncing them both is the only road to salvation. Can we get an amen?

Most of Thursday’s presentation was a monotonous rehash of what committee members apparently felt was their most damning and convincing details, all leading to the clear political stunt of issuing a subpoena for Trump, which, if it were a serious move, would have been done at the beginning of the hearings, not the end. As law professor Jonathan Turley was quick to point out, the move comes quite late in the game, and Trump will likely never be forced to comply.

Trump’s efforts to reverse the results of the election, despite court losses and against the advice of most close advisers, were shameful. His actions spurred the Jan. 6 Capitol incursion, where a few members of fringe armchair militia groups followed their delusional path to the Capitol grounds, and other Trump supporters followed their lead. Members of Congress and staff were forced to flee for their lives and plead for assistance, video of which amounted to Thursday’s most compelling moments. Trump’s refusal to participate in the peaceful transfer of power was unpatriotic, dishonorable and dangerous.

But we knew those truths on Jan. 6, 2021. No congressional committee was needed to reveal them. I doubt the hearings have persuaded very many people to accept them who previously did not. So now that the preacher seems finally out of breath, what was the point of it all?

Politics, of course, was the point, and from the Democrats’ point of view, that’s entirely understandable. The hearings helped Democrats keep voters focused on Trump and the events of Jan. 6. With a shaky economy, high gas prices and a president whose performance on myriad foreign and domestic challenges is short of inspiring, the outcomes of midterm elections based on those issues were not promising.

The country’s top media outlets have investigated Jan. 6 ad nauseam. The Justice Department has carried out hundreds of investigations related to the Capitol incursion. But the nature of low-level prosecutions of mostly anonymous Americans for crimes such as obstructing official proceedings or even assault don’t generate the political headlines necessary to sway voters. Democrats knew more was needed.

First, they proposed an outside “independent commission” to investigate the riot. When Republicans filibustered that obvious ploy, convening a congressional committee was the last resort. But the fact that the committee would, as expected, be little more than a campaign weapon against Trump and Republicans was made crystal clear the day that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took the brazen step of refusing to seat two Republican representatives put forth by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy: Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Jim Banks (Ind.).

The notion that the committee became “bipartisan” because of Republicans Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) was never taken seriously by most of the GOP faithful, as demonstrated by GOP primary voters resoundingly rejecting Cheney’s reelection bid in August. Kinzinger spared himself similar humiliation by standing down from running again, and he is now endorsing numerous Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. Loyalists on both sides of the aisle can tolerate intraparty squabbles, but blatantly teaming with the other side is a bridge too far.

With a panel of compliant committee members, nary a contrary word was uttered, no challenge raised to any witness testimony, no comment from the panel veered from the preapproved queries and conclusions snaking across the teleprompter. Every hearing was routinely wrapped up with grim-faced pronouncements of guilt and dire warnings that one of the country’s major political parties poses a threat to democracy. Cheney even went so far as to declare in August that witness testimony amounted to “confessions.” What nonsense.

Ratings show that MSNBC has consistently drawn the most viewers for the hearings, a clear indicator that left-leaning partisans who have long hated Trump and want him perp-walked to prison are the hearings’ fan base. For the most part, the committee has been preaching to the choir, with many of the rest of us praying for the sermon to finally end.

Gary Abernathy, a contributing columnist for The Post, is a freelance writer based in the Cincinnati, Ohio, region.

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