What if then President Donald Trump had bullied his secret service detail into taking him up to Capitol Hill to join and probably lead the assault on the American electoral process?
What if he had jumped out of “The Beast,” his presidential vehicle, and used his charismatic skills to take over the House chambers to stop the constitutional counting of electoral college votes of the 50 states? What if his leadership gifts had inflamed the mob to hunt down Vice President Michael Pence and do him harm, even hanging him? That was the mob’s chant.
It would have been great theater for the 75 year old former reality TV star. He would have been where he loves to be – in the spotlight. The hypothetical consequences could have been disastrous for our democracy.
His security detail judiciously refused to take him to the Hill. Their job is to protect the president, and Trump himself could have been hurt in the chaos. The congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection have laid bare the nonfiction of how close we got to that kind of tragedy.
What’s been the GOP response to how close we came? It has been to discredit the hearings and duck the ugly reality. Some Wisconsin GOP strategists have established a party line that the congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 assault are flawed. That kind of ankle-biting will not change the heavy fallout from testimonies from Republican leaders who stood tall against the Big Lie about the “stolen” election.
The GOP critics argue that some of the testimony was hearsay and that there was no cross examination. The congressional hearings are not a trial. Their purpose is to bring out the truth as best as it can, short of criminal charges. Star witness Cassidy Hutchinson was actually in the room directly involved for what she reported under oath.
The biggest piece of fallout in Wisconsin has been the withdrawal of Kevin Nicholson, a former Marine and “business consultant” who based much of his campaign on the now thoroughly disproven concoction that the election was fraudulent and stolen. The hearings have made it abundantly clear that the election was generally well-run in the 50 states.
Nicholson’s recognition of reality, a shallow campaign and lack of bona fide chops closed the window on his campaign. Will Rep. Tim Ramthun, whose campaign is also based on the Big Lie, withdraw? His campaign has been even more shallow.
Expect the remaining GOP candidates, Rebecca Kleefisch and Tim Michels – because of the hearings – to walk back their hard lines on alleged election fraud. Some hygienic moves, like the banning of private money for assistance in election venues, will be passed into law. These are small potato issues compared to major challenges facing the state.
As for major election fraud, it is now clear that there is no “there” there. Our patriotic poll workers did their customary fine job. They should be lauded, not pilloried.
Another piece of fallout from the hearings is the shocking revelation that Republican Sen. Ron Johnson was personally involved in an attempt to transmit a slate of ten fake, illegal electors to Vice President Pence just before a formal certification of electoral college votes. The senator, who is running for a third term that he said he would never seek, has a lot of explaining to do.
The biggest revelation to come from Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony was that President Donald Trump was determined to head to the Capital to lead the charge against the constitutional count of electoral ballots. There has been some muted debate about Trump’s physical actions inside “The Beast,” but there can be no doubt that he wanted to – in person — lead the assault on the Capitol.
There also can be little equivocation that he was complicit in encouraging the mob’s targeting of Pence. Understand, the mob was armed.
There are many lessons to be learned about the need for more vigilance and civic education to protect the electoral process that is at the heart of our democracy. Without the revelations from the congressional hearings, the need for more safeguards may never have gained momentum.
It has been a positive civic exercise that up to 20 million Americans have been glued to the TV drama unfolding during the first six hearings.
On the positive side of patriotism, we have a new American hero in young Hutchinson, and we have an elevated and supremely articulate voice in Liz Cheney on what American democracy is all about. Rep. Cheney is as eloquent as our founding fathers on the need to stand up for our democratic principles and institutions.