The first January 6 hearings were held on Thursday, June 9 and Monday, June 13. These hearings into the origins of the January 6 Capitol riot gave the public new information, including:
- Proud Boys’ and Oath Keepers’ instigation of the day’s violence
- Police body camera footage of rioters attacking police officers
- Testimony from one of the first Capitol police officers to be injured during the attack
After hearing emotional testimony and seeing new riot footage, PredictIt’s markets remained non-reactive. The 2022 balance of power market prices remained stable following Thursday’s hearing. So did the 2024 GOP presidential nominee market, the 2024 presidential winner market, and the 2024 presidential party market.
But this investigation is not an important issue for every voter. The Capitol riot is an important issue for Democrats. But support for a congressional investigation dropped as early as the summer of 2021 among Independents and Republicans. Further, a June 2022 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 58% of surveyed Republicans believed the “protesters were peaceful and law-abiding.” So, there’s a large partisan gap between the perception of the Capitol riot, its importance, and its reality.
2020 Election Lies
The same goes for the lies about the 2020 election that precipitated January 6. Former Attorney General, William Barr, is quoted in testimony to the January 6 committee calling Trump’s election fraud claims “bullshit.” According to Reuters, state and federal courts dismissed over 50 Trump election fraud cases. Finally, the January 6 committee found that Trump knew his rigged election claims were false when he was tweeting them.
That hasn’t stopped Trump’s most loyal followers from embracing his rigged election narrative. Fox News declined to cover the January 6 hearings, instead airing popular shows with conservative figures denying that the Capitol riot was an attempted coup. A November 2020 The Economist/YouGov poll found that 33% of Independents and 57% of Republicans had “no confidence at all” that the 2020 presidential election was fair.
The January 6 committee linked Donald Trump’s election lies to the organization of the attack on the Capitol. For voters who reject the purpose of the committee to begin with, the committee’s findings are unlikely to sway their political opinions.
Since the political opinions about the January 6 hearings were formed before the hearings and change the way the hearings are viewed, the hearings alone may not affect the outcome of the midterms or the presidential race.
The January 6 Hearings Require Voter Action
The January 6 hearings have set out to prove Donald Trump’s responsibility for the Capitol riot. That conclusion is inconvenient for Republican voters who supported Trump. They’ll have to reevaluate whether Trump is worth a vote during the 2024 presidential primaries and whether his favored candidates are worth a vote in the 2022 midterms.
Democrats will also have to turn out and vote instead of staying home. Some analyses have pointed to non-voters as a reason that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election. The voters who stayed home in 2016 were more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. So, Republicans are not the only ones who bear responsibility for acting on the January 6 committee’s findings.
The January 6 hearings can reveal every detail of the Capitol riot and its causes. But it’s up to the voters to act on the committee’s findings. It’s not the electorate’s job to outsource its political reasoning to news networks and social media sites. Self-government demands that the electorate be more than just politically useful.
As long as voters are merely useful, savvy politicians will repeat attractive falsehoods to useful bettors. So, voters can still choose to vote cynical politicians out of power.
However, when true believers in those lies ascend to power, the time to vote them out has already run out. The true believers are more radical, leading to the kind of persecution democracy is designed to prevent.
The January 6 hearings aren’t just a reckoning for the attack on the Capitol. They are a test of America’s remaining interest in self-governance.