Jan. 6 hearings are flawed — but Trump’s bad behavior isn’t excusable
Is the Republican party starting to move past Donald Trump? A poll published this week showed that the former president remains the favorite candidate of 53% of Republican voters. But his numbers are slipping, and other candidates are on the rise.
Most noticeable is Ron DeSantis. The same poll showed almost a quarter of Republican voters putting the Florida governor up as their favored nominee. And his numbers are only rising, while Trump’s are only falling. Several polls in recent weeks have even shown DeSantis pulling ahead of Trump.
One reason is obvious. The conclusion that the Jan. 6 hearings are arriving at.
Like a lot of people, I thought at the start of the hearings that the whole thing was little more than partisan political theater. It still seems pretty disgraceful that one political side can effectively carry out a political trial of the other. The Republicans have not solicited a couple of Democrats to form a committee looking into the violence and looting across America in the summer of 2020. Or tried to find which Democrat politicians and media should take responsibility for whipping that along.
So you might say that of course the committee was going to find Donald Trump guilty. If that had been all that happened then Republicans might have been able to ignore it.
But what is very hard to ignore is the evidence that has come out from those closest to Trump — including his advisers and family. Every day of the hearings we have been able to learn exactly what the president was doing during those crucial days and hours.
Without the hearings we would not have known that Trump had been told by his closest advisers that he had lost the election and that there was no way around that. Without the hearings we might not have known how Trump and his family used the money they demanded from supporters to help “stop the steal.”
We would not have known that Ivanka Trump heard her father on the phone telling Vice President Pence he was a “p—y” for not helping to overturn the election results.
Or that Trump was informed that some of his supporters were arriving in the capital with weapons on Jan. 6 but shrugged it off saying “They´re not here to hurt me.”
We wouldn’t have known that Trump sent out his tweet attacking Pence when he had already been told that violence had erupted at the Capitol. Or that he would respond to news that some protestors were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” by saying Pence “deserves” it. Far from being the partisan nothing-burger that some of us expected, every day of hearings has details that would shock a chronicler of the last days of Rome.
This week’s revelation that Trump had wanted to join the crowd as they marched on the Capitol was bad enough. The news that he allegedly made a lunge for the steering wheel of the presidential limo when he was told he was being returned to the White House not the Capitol is a detail that his worst critics could not have dreamed up. It may be a hotly contested claim, but nobody is denying he wanted to join the crowd.
We now know how Trump refused to leave office, ignored everyone telling him he had lost, whipped up a conspiracy theory, drew a crowd to the Capitol and then encouraged some of them to behave utterly shamefully.
Supporters of Trump often tell me that he is the right’s best fighter — and that in order to win an election you have to send your best fighter into the ring. But the truth is that at this stage Trump is a deeply wounded fighter, who is wounding his own side while giving gift after gift to their opponents. He ignored the most basic foundations of democracy, including respecting election results and ensuring the peaceful handover of power. If that is not disqualifying it is hard to know what is.
It would be understandable for Republicans to try to ignore what has come out. But it would also be disastrous. For while die-hard loyalists of Trump may have wanted to look away, the rest of the country has not.
In the coming months I would expect more and more Republicans voters to quietly come to the conclusion that this deeply tainted man cannot be their candidate. They will then begin cohering around a candidate who can thank Trump for what good things he did and then take it from there.
That may be little comfort for Republicans, so let me at least offer one bit of good news. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have a good bench. Their front-runners aren’t all in their eighties. They’re successful — even popular.
The Republicans aren´t finished. But the Donald Trump era surely must be.
The great British break-off
As an immigrant from the UK, July 4th weekend is obviously a deeply triggering event. I hear that there will be great firework displays in New York and other public celebrations to commemorate America’s independence from British rule.
Come to think of it, in this age of endless rights claims it seems like every minority is allowed a grievance except for the British. Why does nobody think of our feelings when they are celebrating the United States´ withdrawal from our benevolent rule? Why does nobody consider how it affects us when Americans celebrate the founding of a republic which doesn’t even have a hereditary monarch as head of state? Or think of how we still mourn all that tea so cruelly thrown into Boston harbor a few years earlier?
If I was to join the great moaning game of our time I would go on about historic pain, hurt feelings and more. But as it is I loathe that game. I shall simply quote the line with which the great British historian Paul Johnson opened his 1997 book “A History of the American People”: “The creation of the United States of America is the greatest of all human adventures.”
Quite so. A very happy July 4th to everyone.