On January 6th, Donald Trump aimed a crowd at the Capitol Building and pulled the trigger. In the aftermath, despite significant opposition from leadership in the Republican party, the January 6th Committee was formed to investigate the details of that day, particularly the actions or lack thereof of former President Trump.
The revelations in these hearings have had an effect, but how deep is it, and what are the implications? While I will admit speculating, it doesn’t seem as though “Trumpism” is particularly practical: it still faces the same expiration date as all messaging that doubles down on exactly the Archie Bunkers that showed up to raid the Capitol, and the hearings are putting a spotlight on it.
Once we hit a tipping point at which support for Trump goes from being an asset to a liability, the fall of Trump will crush the careers of dozens, and its’ last dying gasp will have all the fireworks you would expect from a series finale involving a desperate reality star. Liz Cheney said it to her colleagues about as well as it can be said: “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
The only drawback of the Committee is that it’s pretty one-sided, but not without reason. When prompted, Speaker McCarthy only put forward the most hardcore-MAGA supporters like Jim Banks (R-Ind) and Jim Jordan (R-OH). For reference, Jim Jordan was famously caught lying about not speaking with Donald Trump that day, while Banks was putting forward pro-Trump conspiracy theories, i.e. that Jan. 6th was a false flag operation by the Biden administration several weeks before Biden took office.
The Committee is imperfect, but it is the best we can get under the circumstances.
For many viewers already familiar with reporting around Trump’s speech and tweets on Jan. 6th, it provided additional detail into exactly how bad it got. For a few for whom MAGA is a part of their identity and have been resistant to any news that paints Trump in a bad light, it broke through and became a wake-up call carried by all the networks (other than Fox) as stark as a silence being broken by shattering glass.
However, Trump is still the center of gravity of the GOP. With many in the MAGA mob still a loyal voting base, how have the hearings gone, and what are their effect on Americans so far?
The most value the hearings have brought have been the intimate look at the Trump Administration behind the scenes, with testimony from a broad range of characters making deep impressions as well.
Perhaps the star of the entire hearing was Cassidy Hutchinson, former assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump’s Chief of Staff. Her shocking testimony from behind the scenes helped confirm how much Trump knew, how unhinged he was during the events (attacking Secret Service, throwing food, etc.), and began to shake loose other witnesses that had to recalculate their positions in light of her testimony.
Hutchinson accepted the position as assistant to Mark Meadows in March 2020, long after MAGA had been thoroughly defined and Trump had already been discussing potential voter fraud for several years. However, her disgust for what she saw was clearly apparent despite being acclimated.
Next in impression was Eric Hershmann, a former Trump Whitehouse Attorney who had a baseball bat with “JUSTICE” over his right shoulder in his video interview. Hershmann testified on the unreasonability of some in Trump’s “team crazy”, fitting a basic narrative of a series of people and meetings described as “unhinged” by the witnesses in general. By the end, around a dozen Republican officials testified, half of whom were connected to or within Trump’s inner circle.
As far as how deep into the inner circle the investigation goes, Ivanka Trump testified how Bill Barr had convinced her that her father had lost the election, with Barr’s testimony leaving no doubt that he told the President his theories of retaining the Presidency were without legal basis.
Then there were some rather extreme anecdotes, like the election worker called out by name by Trump whose grandmother’s home was pushed into by a group of Trump supporters to make a citizen’s arrest and went into hiding for months; the Capitol police officer beaten senseless by the mob, describing the steps she was guarding as a scene from a war movie; the Secretary of State who was doxed and he and his family harassed with threats of sexualized violence, particularly against the Secretary’s wife, for not falsifying election results; and the State Representative hounded by Giuliani who was doxed and had media distributed to his neighbors that he was a pedophile.
Throughout the hearing, there were common themes: Trump didn’t care that violence was happening, actively encouraged it, and was repeatedly informed of what was happening and how his claims about the election had no merit.
Since the hearing began, Rupert Murdock’s media, like Fox News and the New York Post, have started to put forward media on the Jan 6th hearings. Recent polling shows that Trump’s popularity has been dropping every month, with the number of Republican voters believing that he should not run in the primaries rising from about a quarter to about a third. The hearings have been flipping witnesses and digging up additional evidence, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is steadily gaining on Trump in national polls as a potential usurper, with other Republicans likely sharpening their knives and biding their time til it’s safer to take a shot at Trump.
The Trump Post-Mortem
Since the “Post-Mortem Report” issued by Reince Priebus in the stunning aftermath of the 2012 election, Republicans have been having a fierce debate between their far-right elements and moderates, with moderates being at the wheel but stirring up the Tea Party and Evangelicals (i.e. through judge appointments) for several elections. This dynamic started to shift after primaries invited Tea Party, MAGA, and other fringe candidates, paving the way for politicians who voted against certifying the election results like Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
When convention and centralized GOP power no longer restrained candidates, 17 serious contenders stepped forward to split the 2012 primary vote deeply. The energized and well-organized far-right Archie Bunker primary voters coalesced and, for the first time, was powerful enough to decide the candidate best able to appeal to their lowest common denominator. When Trump won, the GOP followed the leader.
On the other end, Trump may run for another term out of fear of criminal prosecution, a thing he recently told his campaign team. If January 6th showed us anything, it is that he is a pure opportunist who is not burdened by shame, convention, or seemingly anything but self-interest. Now, cornered with more pressure than ever, he stays involved in campaigns for people who will in turn either support his run, or have their voter base mobilized against them.
With cracks already forming in his support and Trump’s penchant for lashing out at full strength whenever threatened, I expect the resulting showdown between Team Trump and Team Anti-Trump to be intense.
After all, when was the last time this guy gave up something gracefully, and have you seen the interviews of his diehard supporters? Meanwhile, he nearly had a Cheney murdered by tweet, and the same people who fled the Yahoos he encouraged to invade the Capitol will now have a chance for payback as taking a shot at Trump has diminishing consequences and a rapidly-closing window of opportunity to go on the record early-ish.
Thumbnail Credits: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times
- This is an opinion piece by Attorney Ryan Campbell