What happened on January 6, 2021 in the Capitol was “the culmination of an attempted coup d’etat”. With these words, Bennie Thompson, chairman of the committee of inquiry, set the tone for the congressional hearings into Donald Trump’s rebellion against his election defeat. The coup did not end with the evacuation of the Capitol, which democratic and constitutional America is dealing with badly. Trump and his supporters wanted to stop the handover to Joe Biden at the time. Not only did a megalomaniac troupe spontaneously riot around the much-photographed shaman with horns and flag, according to the committee’s deputy chair, Republican Liz Cheney: “President Trump called the mob, he assembled the mob, and he has the flame of the attack inflamed.”
The retrospect is sobering: You should have seen the storm on democracy coming if you had taken the man with the orange hairstyle seriously. Well before Jan. 6, Trump was fuming about suspected electoral fraud by the elite, citing alternative facts and branding the press “enemy of the people.” Months earlier, he had publicly asked the violent “Proud Boys” in the Capitol to stand by – “stand back and stand by”.
Comparisons to the Watergate Senate hearings on President Richard Nixon half a century ago, which paved the way for his resignation in August 1974, are of limited use. Nixon was dropped from his party. It’s different with Trump. The Democrats have not been very successful against him so far. Two impeachment attempts have been made, two failed. The Republicans stand by their man.
The current hearings should give the Democrats support for the midterm elections in November and fill the history books. What happened in the Capitol should be fully documented in order to disqualify those politically responsible. Some opponents of the ex-president hope that charges will be brought against Trump so that this man can finally be tried. The decision rests with Attorney General Merrick Garland. Which brings us to a core question: What are the signs for the next elections? Trump supporters continue to stoke the fire around the electoral fraud lie. Trump himself wrote on his platform Truth Social: “January 6 was not just a protest, it represented the largest movement in the history of our country.”
Part of the American belief, particularly left of center and part of the media, is the view that, despite numerous adversities, more justice and freedom will come over time in America. That’s not wrong, after all, slavery has been defeated, civil rights won, legal discrimination eliminated and the political stage cleared for more and more diverse people. It’s a beautiful phrase that politicians like Barack Obama like to say: “The arc of the moral universe” inclines toward justice.
January 6th and the Trumpist movement show that there is no inevitability in this process. One of the first eyewitnesses was 31-year-old police officer Caroline Edwards. She had faced the storm and was crushed. “Officials were lying on the ground bleeding,” she said. She slipped in the blood.
The first session, apparently seen by 20 million television viewers, was intended to show, with recorded videos of Trump’s Attorney General William Barr and adviser Ivanka Trump, that the close circle did not really believe the lie about electoral fraud. He sees no evidence of irregular results, Barr claims to have said to the president. The widespread thesis of falsifying counting machines is “complete nonsense”. Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president, said Barr impressed her.
Few Republican politicians are paying much attention to the hearings. Trump is about Trump, not a big ideological project. He recognized years ago that there was a market for his aggressive political style, which purports to defend ordinary Americans who feel underrepresented. The old order in the Republican Party was rotten, making it easy for Trump to deal with. Republican politicians are now imitating him with the Kulturkampf, with gun rights, hate speech against immigrants, against LGBT – the attacks on the elite. They may not be the largest movement, but Trump’s people have roots in white America, including working class, definitely middle class, and Protestantism
Bhaskar Sunkara, Founder of Leftist Magazine Jacobin, summed up the problem of left-wing democrats in the dispute: This group is “large enough to have a political presence in parts of the country, but far too disorganized and powerless” to implement a program. The right are more ruthless in wielding power. They voted for Trump because he is Trump. The judiciary has not yet made a hard statement on January 6th. Many participants in the rush received suspended sentences.