Jan. 6 was awful. But conservatives have good reasons to question these hearings.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol is a deeply partisan body, and conservatives will be dubious of its findings.
As an American, I find what happened at our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, abhorrent. Period.
The riot – and the attempts to interfere with certifying the presidential election – demand a thorough investigation and reckoning.
The House select committee that is charged with that task, however, is a deeply partisan body, and plenty of conservatives have doubts about its purpose and will consequently be dubious of its findings.
Only 2 Republicans on Jan. 6 committee
Only two of the nine committee members are Republicans, including Vice Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming, and while the GOP has itself to blame in many ways for the lack of bipartisanship, the outcome remains the same. The committee is laser focused on pointing the blame for an attempted “coup” on former President Donald Trump, and his inability to accept the fact that he lost the election.
The Jan. 6 committee launched its public hearings Thursday, with a polished prime-time spot that garnered about 20 million viewers. The hearings continued Monday morning, with additional dates scheduled for this week.
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It was hard to watch the footage shown Thursday of the mob storming the Capitol. I think all Americans should see it for themselves.
But the reality is the committee is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. If anything, it will serve to cement citizens further into their disparate political camps.
An April poll from The Washington Post and ABC News found that Americans were very divided about whether the committee was conducting a fair investigation – 40% believed it was while 40% disagreed. Other polls have highlighted how Democrats are far more likely to believe it’s important to get to the bottom of what transpired that day.
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The timing of these hearings also coincides with President Joe Biden’s perilous standing. His average job approval rating has now fallen below 40%, with voters even more concerned about his handling of the economy.
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This spring, a Navigator Research poll found that 39% of registered voters thought the House committee was too focused on the past. I’m guessing that number has shot up lately, with most Americans turning their attention to the issues most directly impacting their lives – including the climbing costs at the pump and grocery store. Democrats are eager to change the narrative as the midterms get closer.
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It’s also hard to ignore the political theater surrounding the committee's work. Take several instances from my state of Michigan, which was ground zero for some of Trump's "stolen election" claims.
On Thursday morning, ahead of the first big hearing, it hardly seems coincidental that the FBI chose that same day to arrest Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley on misdemeanor charges related to his actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Ironically, Kelley’s arrest is likely to raise his profile and boost his standing among the Trump wing of the state GOP.
Similarly, Laura Cox, who was chair of the Michigan Republican Party during the 2020 election, has expressed her frustrations with the House committee and how it publicly announced in February it had issued a subpoena to depose her – even after Cox had months before willingly agreed to participate in questioning. She has argued that the Jan. 6 committee is more focused on intimidation than finding the truth.
Conservative commentators such as The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel have noted that the way the committee chose to conduct its depositions differed from most, with no minority counsel present to push back against questioning. This made for a one-sided process.
“It is possible to be both deeply critical of Trump's actions, and skeptical of this committee,” Strassel tweeted last week.
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She is absolutely right.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much room in our country now for nuance. After these hearings, Democrats will be further convinced that Republicans – especially those who ever backed Trump – are complicit in the violence.
And Republicans will feel like they are the subject of a witch hunt that never had a hope of being impartial.
Ingrid Jacques is a columnist at USA TODAY. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques