The images are terrible; the speech, terrifying. If the first hearing, last Thursday, of the committee investigating the storming of the United States Capitol in January 2021 is representative of those to come, the sessions broadcast on prime-time television will be revealing and disturbing. And while they try to figure out what happened on a winter’s day 18 months ago, they’re not about America’s past. They are a warning about the future.
Do not get wrong. Statements about what exactly happened when a violent mob stormed the halls of the United States Congress with the aim of annulling democratic presidential elections and preventing the victory of Democratic candidate Joe Biden from being certified, are a valuable and impressive contribution to the history.
The House of Representatives commission that has spent a year investigating the attempted insurrection – and which has collected more than 140,000 documents and spoken with more than 1,000 witnesses – discovered that when donald trump He learned that the assailants were shouting “hang Mike Pence”, his vice president, reacted with “he deserves it”.RELATED
“It was a butcher shop”
In fact, unpublished images and new testimonies serve to put an end to opinions such as those of a Republican congressman, who had affirmed that the behavior of the assailants of the Capitol was like that of any “normal tourist visit” or that, as he continued to insist on Thursday Fox News’s most-watched host, Tucker Carlson, was nothing more than an “unremarkable and insignificant bout of violence.” In contrast, Caroline Edwards, a police officer who suffered a traumatic brain injury that day, explained how insurgents slammed her into a wall, knocking her unconscious, and sprayed her with pepper spray and tear gas. There was so much blood on the floor that she slipped. “It was a butcher shop,” she said. “The chaos”.
In addition, Trump’s entourage knew that the violent acts were caused by a lie. They knew perfectly well that Biden had won the presidential election and that the Republican candidate had lost it. Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, stated that in his opinion the claim that the 2020 election had been stolen was “bullshit.” Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, agreed.
Many of the Republicans in Congress who supported the lie that day knew it was stupid, and they knew they were breaking their oath by assenting to it. Investigators have found that “many” Republican congressmen were quick to ask Trump for a presidential pardon for what they did, namely for trying to overturn a legitimate election.
Some Republicans console themselves with the thought that voters have other concerns on their minds right now, that as the midterm elections approach, Americans will be more concerned about inflation that Biden is failing to curb than about Trump inciting an insurrection. They hope that the price of gasoline, at $10 a gallon, will cost more than the gasoline the Republican president poured into the fire of his supporters’ anger a year and a half ago.
Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, that forecast could be correct. Democrats are unlikely to change their party’s results with an argument, however convincing, about the past. But that does not make the events of January 6, 2021, a lost cause, much less irrelevant. Because what is being investigated is not the past. It is the present.
The clearest proof that past events are not being investigated is Trump himself. He has had some hiccups this primary season, in which his favorite candidates have not always prevailed in party infighting, but his grip on the GOP remains. Most assume that if Trump wants to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024, he will be. Of course, he still shows no remorse for the assault on the Capitol. On the eve of the first session on the assault, he posted on his social media that on that day he “represented the greatest movement in American history to become a great country again.”
But even if Trump does not return, or does not try to return, to the White House, the certain thing is that the former president will be present in the future of the United States. Whatever his next personal moves may be, Trumpism is now the defining creed of the Republican tribe. Polls reveal that a large majority of Republican voters believe the lie he has cemented – that the last presidential election was rigged – and are convinced that Trump won the November 2020 election.
Change of electoral laws
Regardless of whether the Republican presidential candidate in the next election is finally Trump or a more disciplined politician – such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – Trumpism, permanently on the warpath and with its disregard for democratic norms, is now very present in the American landscape.
This is why the sessions that are taking place should be seen more as a warning about the future than as a judgment of past events. On January 6, 2021, Trump supporters were determined to disrupt a democratic election. They failed only because the country had guarantees and safeguards in place to prevent it, whether it was state election officials determined to count the votes and counting them fairly, or a judicial system that dismissed the veracity of allegations of voter fraud. But in 2024 the situation will have changed because the Republicans have seen to it that way.
Republicans have been working, methodically and in states across the country, to dismantle the guarantees that sustain American democracy. In 2021 alone, at least 19 Republican-led states passed measures whose official purpose was to crack down on (non-existent) voter fraud, but whose practical effect will be voter suppression, making it harder for low-income and minority Americans to vote. particular. Efforts to undermine democracy have not ended.
Most alarmingly, several Republican-majority local chambers, the repository of legislative power in all 50 states, have tried to put themselves or their allies in charge of what used to be a nonpartisan election machine, installing Republicans – including Trump loyalists – at the offices where votes are counted and certified. Worse yet, there are moves to make state legislatures the sole authority that can run elections, ending the role of the courts. For example, the Republicans who control the Wisconsin legislature could decide that they and they alone will allocate the state’s electoral votes, regardless of whom the citizens of this state have voted for. If the 2020 election could be returned to in this new altered environment, the states that stood their ground on that occasion and gave Biden the victory he rightfully won could hand over power in 2024 to the loser.
The key change here is in the Republican Party itself. On Thursday night, Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on Capitol Hill, did an admirable job of telling fellow Republicans that when Trump is gone their “disgrace will remain.” ”. It is an atypical policy, isolated and condemned to ostracism in her party.
This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the Watergate wiretapping. But if that event were to happen now, it would play out very differently. The right-wing media wouldn’t even cover it, just like Fox didn’t cover the first session last Thursday. Right now, it is inconceivable that Senate Republicans would turn on a Republican president the way their predecessors turned on Richard Nixon when he was shown to be behind the Watergate bugging, ousting him from the White House. We can make this statement because we know that they have not turned against Trump despite what happened.
Nearly a decade ago, academic David Runciman wrote a book titled The trust trap. He argued that the problem with democracy is that every time it survives a crisis, people mistakenly assume that it is indestructible.
We trust that democracy can survive any attack if it has survived the last one. In America today, that trust seems meaningless. The United States narrowly survived Trump on January 6, 2021, and the safeguards that managed to stop the attack are weakening with each passing day.
Translation by Emma Reverter.