American expectations of the Jan. 6 committee

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The foundational principle of the American democratic republic is the rule of law. The framers of the Constitution were certain that their new government was based on this principle; they divided power so that neither the executive, the two branches of the legislature, nor an independent judiciary could ever be predominant over the others.

They staggered elections so presidents served four years, senators six, and representatives two. To ensure that judges would be independent, they decided they should serve “during good behavior,” as Article III states, that is, until they retired, resigned, died, or were impeached. Term limits did not exist for any of the other offices until 1951, when the states ratified the 22nd Amendment, stating presidents may serve only two terms.

This is all pure civics stuff, something every schoolchild should learn as part of their civics education. And it’s what all Americans must know to fulfill their obligations to be good, upstanding citizens. The reason is clear: the peaceful transfer of power from one presidential administration to the next. The same is true for members of the U.S. Congress when elections or re-elections are won or lost.

For nearly a year now, the House of Representatives’ Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has been carrying out its charge: “to investigate and report upon the facts, circumstances, and causes relating to the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power … as well as the influencing factors that fomented such an attack on American representative democracy while engaged in a constitutional process.”

To date, the select committee, which includes two Republicans, Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), has shown how former President Donald J. Trump tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election through what it calls “the big lie:” that Joe Biden was not elected in 2020, because the election was stolen by fraud and rigging, despite the lack of evidence emerging to prove his assertion.

The ultimate outcome of the select committee’s work may, however, hit the “so what” level.

Its members seem to have little interest in persuading Americans that the American system of government is based on the rule of law, not men. They must do more to prevent another Capitol attack from ever happening again by devising a plan to avoid the rise of authoritarian leaders whose gullible followers accept their mendacity, leading to warring in the streets and even in the U.S. Capitol itself.

As New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks put it a few weeks ago, “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.”

The select committee should understand this reality, and come up with solutions, perhaps along the lines that journalist George Packer recently identified in the Atlantic magazine: basically a massive effort in renewed civic education. “The point is not to abandon politics, but to pursue it wisely. Avoid language and postures that needlessly antagonize people with whom you disagree; distinguish between their legitimate and illegitimate views; take stock of their experiences. This, too, requires imagination. Finding shared ground wherever possible in pursuit of the common good is not most people’s favorite brand of politics. But it’s the politics we need for the emergency that’s staring us in the face, if only we will see it.”

Democrats and liberals who long opposed the Trump administration and its actions will be gratified by the select committee’s revelations. Some will claim that Trump himself should be charged with criminal conspiracy or the intent to defraud the American people.

Republicans and conservatives who are persuaded that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, despite the absolute lack of evidence that there was fraud and rigging, will ignore its findings. In February, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution condemning the two Republicans on the select committee, saying that its focus on those who attacked the Capitol was persecuting “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political protest.”

We need to renew our understanding of how the framers wanted the American government to be workable: not through violence and destruction, or the murder of officials with whom we disagree. We have to show ourselves and the world that the U.S. was built on the principle of the rule of law, and those who violate that principle face severe consequences.

 

Jack Fruchtman lives in Aquinnah. The second edition of his “American Constitutional History” was published in March.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Inspite of all the hysterics surrounding the events of January 6, 2021, two significant things stand out. The first is that what happened was much more hoax than insurrection. In fact, in it wasn’t an insurrection at all. An “insurrection,” is a violent uprising against a government or other authority. The violent riots that swept the country in the summer of 2020—riots that caused some $2 billion in property damage and claimed more than 20 lives–that’s an insurrection. The January 6 protest at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. lasted a few hours, caused minimal damage, and the only person directly killed was an unarmed female Trump supporter who was shot by a Capitol Police officer. But this is not the narrative that we have all been told to parrot.

    • Andy– the one person who was “directly killed” during the Jan 6 insurrection was a combat hardened veteran armed with ( according to you and your ilk) the most lethal weapons– her hands and feet. She was defying a lawful order to halt, and the capitol police had their guns drawn and pointed at her.. She was intent on murdering members of congress and the Vice president of the United States.
      You seem to have no problem with police officers shooting unarmed black men who refuse to obey their lawful orders. As far as “unarmed” goes, she had a thousand people behind her with the same intent. Having a mob at your back is certainly armed.
      Had she breeched that hallway, hundreds of murderous psychopaths would have followed her.

    • Andy, the videos tell the truth.
      It was a violent mob who intended to harm Trump’s Vice President.
      Hang Mike Pence was not a political statement.
      It was a call for murder.

      • Why, for example, did the government mobilize 26,000 federal troops from all across the country to surround “the people’s house” following January 6? Why were those troops subjected to FBI vetting, with some of them sent packing?
        Why is there some 14,000 hours of video footage of the event on January 6 that the government refuses to release? What are they afraid of letting the public see? More scenes of security guards actually opening doors and politely ushering in protesters? More pictures of FBI informants covertly salted among the crowd?

        • andy– and you recently said that I would be guilty of whataboutism.
          Of course, we have to understand that you are being sarcastic when you define what an insurrection is, and then say Jan 6 was not one.
          That, combined with your “fact” that the government is refusing to release 14,000 hours of video that show all the peaceful trump supporters patiently standing in line to take a tour of the building, is obviously sarcasm.
          I get it–now I fully see the humor.

          or wait–mayyyyybeee not.
          I just hacked into a secret government file —one of the ones they are refusing to show us.—
          It has a whole bunch of pictures that show what Jan 6 was really like at the capitol.
          https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/capitol-tour-guide
          I also heard from my “good friend” “Jim”, who also happens to be a good friend of trump’s. He told me that the Jan 6 “insurrection” was actually filmed on a secret movie set on an abandoned offshore oil rig. It was funded by George Soros, and if you look closely, you can clearly see Leonardo DiCaprio is the person who is pretending to smash that window with a police shield.
          But don’t bother looking for that oil rig, because Mr. Soros vaporized it with his lasers from space.
          Now, I am truly “woke” and see the real conspiracy.
          How could I have been so blind ?

    • “What is the constitutional definition of insurrection?
      In a constitutional democracy, sedition and insurrection refer to inciting or participating in rebellion against the constitutionally established government, its processes and institutions, or the rule of law.”

      J6 was a violent insurrection, people. died as a result of the violence.
      The hue and cry of the insurrectionists was to was to Hang Mike Pence.

      The 2020 violence was on Trumps’ watch, how many people did our Law and Order President put in jail?
      How many J6er’s has Biden put in jail, how many will he?
      Tell me again how strong Trump is….

  2. Those who can make you believe absurdities,can make you commit atrocities.
    Voltaire

    Is the author a real person or some lonely bot who didn’t get the memo. Rational people have seen the how {it’s on tape} and why {it’s on tape} and know that the twice impeached, disgraced ex-president fomented insurrection {it’s on tape} The fact that anyone was killed in this “hoax” is tragic, the fact you would stand on that poor girls corpse to regurgitate this nonsense is bigly sad.

  3. The amazing irony is that the heroes in this sad chapter of Trump, his destructive lies, and the January 6 failed coup to stop the peaceful transition of power, are seeming to be the most loyal Republican Trump supporters who, in the end, put their country before the man. I do not agree with the ideology of most Republican policies, but I have the utmost regard for those who do love and serve our nation and respect and protect our Constitution, from either party.

  4. The term for anyone still clinging to the Big Lie and minimizing the violent, attempted coup trying stop the peaceful transition of power should be AINO: American-in-name-only. They certainly cannot be called Republican, as the patriotic, genuine Republicans testifying at the Jan 6th hearings prove.

    • Yup, god had a great strategy– cheat to get nut cases to hearings about their appointment to SCOTUS and then have them lie about their views.
      Lying is good, right ?

      • Keller your definition of lying is different than many. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh when asked a ”gotcha” question simply said Roe is Judicial Precedent and future rulings should keep that in mind. They never said they would preserve Roe. Never.

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