IT’S NOT FOR US. IT’S FOR HISTORY
I’m working on a bunch of other stuff now that I have some time off from the day job. I don’t plan on doing any heavy analysis of the January 6th hearings, but I do have some initial thoughts as we head into what looks from the initial performance to be a really well-planned event.
First: I’m all for this hearing. I’m doubtful that it will do much good in the short term. For years we have been waiting for the followers of this particular would-be demagogue to realize that he is a would-be demagogue and to turn against him. He has spewed racist rhetoric, misogyny, and hate. He has admitted to sexually assaulting women. He used the White House as his own personal bag drop. He was impeached twice for crimes he really did commit and spent most of his term obstructing investigations. He attacked poor immigrants and tear-gassed peaceful protestors after referring to Nazis as very fine people. Then there was the neverending litany of Tweets and bullying and insults, even attacking a respected war hero John McCain for having been captured.
Despite all of this, his die-hard followers never turned their backs on him. They liked all of the things he was doing and saying because they were somehow convinced that he was doing all of this self-aggrandizing stuff for them. They were so taken in by his con that many were willing to follow him into sedition to keep him in office.
I see no indication that this cult-like dedication is waning despite the hopeful hoopla behind the poor performance of his proxies in the latest round of primaries. No. His followers answered his call to sedition once. They’ll take to the streets at his command again. No question.
That’s why I’m surprised and heartened by the direction the committee is going. The first public hearing seems to be making clear that they have every intention of making the case against the former president. They are making it clear that responsibility for an attempted coup rests squarely on him. They seem to be making the case that this was not just another protest that got out of control. This was an orchestrated event, an intentional coup intended to undermine American democracy to keep an undeserving, corrupt, authoritarian in power against the will of the voters.
To be honest, I always thought that the January 6th committee would go the way of the Mueller Investigation. In other words, I was convinced that the committee would simply lay out the facts in a non-committal way, suggest that the results were subject to interpretation, and then for the sake of unity drop the whole issue and let cable TV hash out the debate.
But no. It looks like the committee is actually going to make the case against the Orange Don.
Further, it looks like many of The Demagogue’s most devoted enablers are willing to stop enabling. Even his daughter didn’t have his back. Will this encourage other stalwarts to come forward? Time will tell.
What does this mean in the end?
If the committee makes the case and lays out enough evidence to press actual charges of sedition against the former president the next move belongs to the Justice Department. It’s a hell of a weight, the thought of pressing criminal charges against a former president. One of the hallmarks of a peaceful transfer of power is not persecuting the political opposition when it loses incumbency. Even the Orange Don didn’t follow through with his threat to lock Hillary up (not that that was a possibility). Actually prosecuting a former president is unprecedented in the United States even when that president’s crimes were well established and known.
Merrick Garland isn’t exactly a boat rocker, but he will have a history-shaking choice to make. If he does not prosecute in the face of clear evidence of sedition then the precedent will be set that the President of the United States is above the law, in or out of office. That lays the groundwork for the next would-be demagogue to commit his own act of sedition. Only this time, the sedition will be better planned and more meticulously executed–Ron DeSantis Style.
On the other hand, prosecuting the former president may open the door to less scrupulous administrations using their power to attack the political opposition. Presidents make a lot of decisions, many of which can be, and arguably should be, defined as criminal. Yet they are not prosecuted because the result would be destabilizing and delegitimizing to the government. Think about Obama’s drone policy. Whether we agree or not, new administrations have historically erred on the side of stability and continuity rather than accountability. That’s why George W is a free man, like it or not.
Maybe this is the right call. The potential ramifications are mind-boggling.
The other option is for the Justice Department to act on the evidence provided by the committee and determine that sedition is beyond the accepted threshold for indifference to presidential crimes. This was, after all, sedition against the very government we hope to defend. The Justice Department could press charges.
How would that work? I find it hard to believe that we’ll get the perp walk most of us on the left fantasize about. It’s unlikely the former president will even be arrested and confined. He’ll most likely remain free during any resulting trials.
We can count on two things. First, the president’s cult will take the streets and they’ll take their guns with them. They will be convinced that this is some pedophilic socialist plot to crucify the Messiah, the only man who can save the country from the gay, socialist agenda to institute Sharia Law and turn all of our children into trans-gendered critical race theorists. They will be fighting for a transcendent value, so they will use those weapons. That’s what Brownshirts, or in this case Red Hats, are for.
Secondly, the trial will be fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Do we have faith that the Supreme Court will vote to convict regardless of the evidence? This court?
This committee isn’t going to bring the immediate satisfaction that we want. The Seditionist in Chief will almost certainly not be held accountable for his actions in any direct or meaningful way.
Despite this, the committee is important. It is important for the judgment of history. We must lay the facts for our children or grandchildren who may be interested in a renaissance of American democracy that may emerge sometime after the inevitable fall. We must get our voices into the permanent record to demonstrate that the fascist movement in America is embraced by a well-organized and effectively gaslit minority. We must let the future know that most of us are against American Fascism and are willing to do the right thing by calling out authoritarianism where we see it.
The January 6th Commission is working for history. I hope they continue on the track they have laid.