Thursday, June 09, 2022


I don't have to tell you that I expect the January 6 hearings to change very few minds. Nevertheless, I think it's a public service for the House committee to try to report what it knows in a lively and compelling way. I think David Brooks is right about the hearings' likely impact, but he seems not to believe that the information should even be publicly aired:
Using the events of Jan. 6 as campaign fodder is small-minded and likely to be ineffective. If you think you can find the magic moment that will finally discredit Donald Trump in the eyes of the electorate, you haven’t been paying attention over the last six years. Sorry, boomers, but this is not the Watergate scandal in which we need an investigation to find out who said what to whom in the Oval Office. The horrors of Jan. 6 were out in public. The shocking truth of it was what we all saw that day and what we’ve learned about the raw violence since.
The shocking truth could also be how much planning went into the riot and who planned it. We didn't see that on January 6. I dobn't expect it to matter to many people who aren't already outraged, but why does Brooks seem to believe that putting this information on display is bad for the country?

But Brooks has a point when he writes this:
We don’t need a committee to simply regurgitate what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. We need a committee that will preserve democracy on Jan. 6, 2025, and Jan. 6, 2029. We need a committee to locate the weaknesses in our democratic system and society and find ways to address them.

The core problem here is not the minutiae of who texted what to chief of staff Mark Meadows on Jan. 6 last year. The core problem is that there are millions of Americans who have three convictions: that the election was stolen, that violence is justified in order to rectify it and that the rules and norms that hold our society together don’t matter.

Those millions of Americans are out there right now. I care more about their present and future activities than about their past. Many of them are running for local office to be in a position to disrupt future elections. I’d like the committee to describe who they are, what motivates them and how much power they already have.
On Tuesday I wrote that Democrats should "link [January 6] to issues that are in the news now." This would have been an excellent way to do it. Brooks sets up an either-or choice, but maybe the hearings should have been about 2021 and the ongoing anti-democracy movement.

Or maybe that's too much for one committee. In addition, I don't agree with Brooks that this a problem only once every four years -- as I often say, democracy at the state legislative level is already dead in many purple states, because Supreme Court-sanctioned gerrymandering prevents Democrats from ever winning legislative majorities no matter how many overall votes they get. Republicans increasingly claim that state legislatures have the constitutional right to overrule voters and choose presidential election winners in large part because gerrymandering ensures that giving that power to the legislature means giving it to the GOP in perpetuity.

Maybe we need hearings about that as well. And maybe the public would benefit from learning the deep roots of the Big Lie. Yesterday, Reveal published a very good story about Catherine Engelbrecht, the head of True the Vote, who claims to have solid evidence that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election. She gets regular shout-outs from Donald Trump and her work was the basis of the Dinesh D'Souza film 2000 Mules, but she's never shown anyone her evidence, and the Reveal story makes clear that she's used election scaremongering to line her own pockets and the pockets of her partner and boyfriend, Gregg Phillips.

But while the story tells us that Engelbrecht has been a pro-GOP activist since the Tea Party era, it doesn't mention that she's been making unsubstantiated and scurrilous allegations about Democrats and elections all along. I've written about her many times, most recently last month. She's been whining about nonexistent illegal Democratic voters for more than a decade. The Reveal story quotes National Review editor John Fund suggesting that she went off the rails recently:
During a private meeting of the Council for National Policy in August 2020, a group of panelists was asked what they thought about True the Vote. Conservative journalist John Fund said he was the one who’d given Engelbrecht her first national publicity.

“I like Catherine, but she has gone astray. She has hooked up with the wrong associates. And I have to say this with the greatest of sadness, because I have to be honest with you, because you’re the people who actually have to make decisions on your own about who to support. As much as I like Catherine personally, I would not give her a penny,” he said, according to a recently leaked video obtained by Documented. “She’s a good person who’s been led astray. Don’t do it.”
So when she was claiming in 2010 that a bus full of probably illegal voters was spotted (but not photographed) in Wisconsin -- or was it San Diego? -- she hadn't gone astray? What anout when she allowed her nakedly partisan group to be the poster child for alleged IRS bias against supposedly apolitical nonprofits during the Obama years? (That IRS "scandal" was fake, but it was taken very seriously.)

And why should we regard John Fund as respectable in any case? He's written obsessively about alleged Democratic election fraud -- a 2008 book called Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, a 2009 book called How the Obama Administration Threatens to Undermine Our Elections, a 2012 book called Who's Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, a 2021 book called Our Broken Elections: How the Left Changed the Way You Vote. Republicans have been baselessly crying fraud for years -- long before Trump. If you want to understand why the Big Lie is so widely believed, this is the reason. We probably should have had hearings on this many years ago, but it's probably far too late to do anything about this now.

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