It will be reminiscent of both of Donald Trump’s impeachments: an effort to investigate and understand an assault on the American system of government conducted while Republicans wave their arms and shout that we shouldn’t be talking about this at all. But the fact that it will make Trump look bad is only the surface reason Republicans oppose this investigation. At a deeper level, they don’t want to draw attention to what it will highlight about them and their supporters.
I’m not talking about whether there will be new revelations, alarming pieces of information that had been hidden before now. We might or might not get anything like that. What Republicans really don’t want to see illuminated is not just what happened that awful day, but the forces that produced it — the same forces that still threaten the stability of our democracy.
That’s because they see those forces — the anger and hatred, the rejection of the American system of resolving differences, the celebration of violence as a means of achieving political ends, the way social media has become such a potent instrument to spread and organize extremism — not as problems to be solved but as resources for achieving their own political goals.
So the current message being delivered by the GOP is that the investigation is illegitimate and therefore nothing that comes out of it need be seriously addressed.
That has been their approach from the outset. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) the opportunity to name five of the committee’s members, the names he submitted included Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), a clear indication that he wanted nothing more than to turn the committee into a circus.
Jordan is less a working legislator than a Fox News personality who stages his show from within the halls of Congress. Banks, though lesser-known, is just as much of a partisan bomb-thrower; he showed how seriously he takes this task by issuing a statement upon being named to the committee that said, “Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the Left’s authoritarian agenda.”
So perhaps it was McCarthy’s hope all along that Pelosi would reject Jordan and Banks, and McCarthy could then use that as a pretext not only to pull the rest of his choices from the committee but also to lead a campaign against it.
Which is just what’s happening now: Republicans have mobilized against the committee before it begins, fanning out to conservative media to argue that the committee’s hearings can be ignored and the real blame for Jan. 6 lies not with Trump nor with the other Republicans who aided him but with Pelosi herself.
The speaker, Banks said on “Fox News Sunday,” “is ultimately responsible for the breakdown of security at the Capitol that happened on January 6th.” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), recently elevated to the House GOP leadership because of her devotion to Trump and the lie of widespread election fraud, released a statement saying “the Pelosi partisan January 6th commission was never about investigating the facts, it was only ever about Pelosi’s radical politics and the Left’s endless obsession with crushing any discussion or debate.”
It was inevitable that this is where Republicans would arrive. They propagated the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, which is what brought the angry crowd to the Capitol on Jan. 6 in the first place. They continue to support the increasingly deranged Trump, who prodded the mob to violence.
More and more they reject the idea undergirding democracy itself — that the system should reflect the will of the voters. They rail at tech companies, but their only real objection is that sites such as Facebook don’t allow more right-wing extremism and conspiracy theorizing than they already do.
They know that their own supporters see Jan. 6 as either a leftist false-flag operation; a legitimate protest that got a tiny bit overenthusiastic; or, most disturbingly, a good thing. One recent poll showed that 25 percent of Republicans, when asked what they thought of those who forced their way into the Capitol, said they approved of their actions.
Given all that, what exactly is it that Republicans would like the investigation of Jan. 6 to discover and explain? Not its root causes, certainly. Not the responsibility of political actors. Not the actual events of the day. Which leaves nothing but, “We hate Nancy Pelosi, so it must be her fault.”
As with so many of our current political controversies, Republicans see their greatest political advantage in increasing distrust, stoking anger, and exacerbating division. That, they believe, is what will most redound to their political benefit. Which is why every campaign they have run in the recent past and will run in the near future is built on the very forces that led to Jan. 6.
So not only won’t they join in the investigation of the insurrection, they’ll do everything in their power to make sure it fails.