ChrisWeigant.com

Preventing It From Happening Again

[ Posted Tuesday, June 14th, 2022 – 16:39 UTC ]

While I listen to and read all the pundits' reactions to the hearings the House select committee is televising, what amazes me is how few of them seem to realize what the actual point of these hearings and of the investigation itself truly is (or should be, at any rate). Many see it and interpret it all through a political lens: "What do the Democrats want to accomplish by all of this? Will it all help or hurt Democrats or Republicans in the midterms? Are the hearings changing anyone's mind?" But these questions all really miss the focal point of it all. Because the end goal is not actually a political one. The end goal should be to prevent it from ever happening again, period.

A common complaint on the right is that there's nothing really "new" here. There are no big revelations, this is all yesterday's news, and we should all just move on, they say. This is patently ridiculous, since the leader of the Republican Party is actually the one who will not let go of the issue. Donald Trump most assuredly has not "moved on" from the issue. Just listen to anything he says, these days. His Big Lie is pretty much all he can talk about. It is obviously the only thing he truly cares about. And his insistence on continuing to push the issue has meant his entire party has had to address the issue in some way or another -- candidates campaigning either eagerly bring it up, or they reluctantly say enough about it to assuage Trump (and avoid his wrath), or they just don't want to talk about it at all. The number of Republicans who will actually answer with the truth -- that Trump lost and Biden won, in a free and fair and secure election -- seems to be limited to just two: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Perhaps there are others, but they're mostly keeping such thoughts to themselves (if they have any ambitions to either stay in office or get elected to office).

The other big complaint from the right is that this is all some sort of partisan witch-hunt. Admittedly, they are masters at this sort of thing themselves (see: endless Benghazi congressional investigations and hearings, to attack Hillary Clinton). So they automatically assume that's what is driving Democrats -- the desire to attack Trump. But this flips the whole thing on its head, since Trump and his henchmen were the ones to launch an actual attack on our democracy. Trump politicized what had never been politicized before (or, at least, not since the 1870s). The peaceful transfer of power used to be a bedrock of American democracy, but that's not nearly as true now as it was before Trump broke all the rules and made the entire thing a political weapon of sorts. So please, spare me the GOP's weeping and wailing about how political it has all become.

One of the big questions the pundits are obsessing over is whether the committee will make a formal recommendation to the Justice Department if they think crimes have been committed, and by doing so call for investigations and prosecutions to follow. But this is truly immaterial and a pointless thing to worry about, one way or the other. Congress has no power in this regard, and pretending they do (the question of referring the matter to the Justice Department) is kind of pointless. If the committee decides not to make a referral, this does not tie the Justice Department's hands in any way -- they are still free to launch (or continue) their own investigation. If the committee does make a referral, the Justice Department is in no way obligated to do anything about it -- they could easily (and legally) just ignore it. It would not force the Justice Department to launch an investigation, because Congress just does not have that power. In fact, it is completely irrelevant whether the committee does make a referral or not. The attorney general is going to do whatever he thinks is the right thing to do, no matter what the House committee sends or doesn't send him. That's the way it is supposed to work and that's the way it will likely work no matter what happens.

There are two real and valid motivations for these hearings. The first is to answer to history. Americans -- both present-day and future -- have a right to know every tiny detail of what happened on and leading up to January 6th, 2021. We are entitled to know this. And it would be an absolute dereliction of duty not to investigate it and answer all the questions in a timely manner. The historical record must be set straight, no matter what else comes of the committee's efforts. This duty to the public is rarely even mentioned by the pundits in their horserace reporting, however, which is a shame. Because it is not the effect this will have on the upcoming midterms, it is instead the effect all of this might have on all American elections for the next century or so. That is what is truly important here.

The second valid motivation for the committee's investigation is to write a final report that not only lays out all the evidence they've uncovered (complete with footnotes and appendices and exhibits and all the rest of the details), but also makes recommendations for how to prevent anyone else from even attempting to overthrow the will of the voters in a presidential election ever again. This cannot be allowed to happen again, period. Federal laws need to be updated or completely rewritten. Guardrails need to be put in place. The entire process of the Electoral College and certification of elections at the state level needs to be crystal-clear and bulletproof. Or maybe "idiot-proof" is a better term to use.

This is critical to the continuation of American democracy. Elections can not and should not ever be decided by partisan whim. And Republicans are now plotting to install election-deniers into positions of power across the country -- the Washington Post identified over 100 GOP candidates who either echo Trump's Big Lie or explicitly promise to change the results of any election any Democrat wins. This is an existential crisis in American democracy. It is the biggest constitutional crisis we have faced since Watergate. And it is ongoing -- it has not ended in any way, shape, or form.

If the rules are not changed, then a future Republican speaker of the House could collude with a Republican presidential candidate to throw the election no matter what the voters had said. That possibility exists, with the laws we have in place. And Kevin McCarthy is no Liz Cheney (or even Brad Raffensperger). McCarthy would gladly (and spinelessly) follow Trump's orders to throw the 2024 election, if he gets the chance to do so. These are not hypothetical fears, in other words -- this could indeed happen in the next presidential election, with the laws written the way they currently are.

So the laws have to be changed. Such skullduggery must be made absolutely impossible to achieve. The courts should be given the final say over certification of election results and slates of electors named by the states. The bar for Congress challenging the results of the election must be raised a lot higher than it now is. The vice president's role must be mandated as a purely ceremonial one, with no power to object to any state's electors at all. Other important changes must also be considered and enacted.

This is the real work of the committee. Other than providing answers for posterity's sake, the committee should make strong recommendations to the rest of Congress for what laws need to be changed or rewritten. Because they are not going to have a lot of time to accomplish this.

The committee's final report is expected at the end of the summer. Before the midterm election happens. Congress is going to have to act either before the election or in the lame-duck period. There's always a chance that Democrats will maintain their control of both chambers of Congress, but if they lose either house, it will mean that nothing will happen on this issue in either 2023 or 2024. A Republican House or Senate is not going to change any election laws, one has to assume.

This is the critical goal of the committee. To force the rest of Congress to act before it is too late. It has been almost a year and a half since January 6th happened, and so far Congress has not acted at all. Discussions have been held. Proposals have been made. None of it has gone anywhere, so far. That cannot be allowed to be the final word on the subject from the legislature. Not if American democracy has any hope of continuing far into the future.

This truly should be a nonpartisan effort. Ask Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger -- they'll tell you. They understand the gravity of the situation. This is an existential crisis. American democracy hangs in the balance. That -- and not partisan horserace considerations -- is the whole point of this exercise. The committee will be seen as successful in the end if the laws are rewritten to prevent a repeat from ever happening again, by anyone in any party. If this doesn't happen, the committee and their investigation will be seen as having failed. That is really the only way to measure it.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

18 Comments on “Preventing It From Happening Again”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    As i said in my comment on the prior column, i think a good place to start understanding where our views on January 6 come from is George packer's 4 Americas.

    In Free America, the winners are the makers, and the losers are the takers who want to drag the rest down in perpetual dependency on a smothering government. In Smart America, the winners are the credentialed meritocrats, and the losers are the poorly educated who want to resist inevitable progress. In Real America, the winners are the hardworking folk of the white Christian heartland, and the losers are treacherous elites and contaminating others who want to destroy the country. In Just America, the winners are the marginalized groups, and the losers are the dominant groups that want to go on dominating.

    I don’t much want to live in the republic of any of them.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:
  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW

    The number of Republicans who will actually answer with the truth -- that Trump lost and Biden won, in a free and fair and secure election -- seems to be limited to just two: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

    As the committee hearings have thus far shown, all one needs to do in order to get the facts out of Trump's own family members and multiple Republicans in Trump's own orbit: Put them under oath under penalty of perjury.

    Those Republicans who've been subpoenaed and already testified as to the facts are shining a ginormous klieg light on the two reasons why there are so many Republicans who attempted to outright kill the committee and who have refused to testify:

    (1) Testify by telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and you're obviously putting yourself in legal jeopardy.

    (2) Perjure yourself, and you're obviously putting yourself in legal jeopardy.

    It'll sure be interesting to see how many of these criminals refuse to comply with subpoenas from the Department of Justice. :)

  4. [4] 
    Speak2 wrote:

    "The courts should be given the final say over certification of election results and slates of electors named by the states."

    That scares me. We've seen many rabid and radical republican (supreme court) justices twist their reasoning and logical processes to find ways to achieve the outcomes they want. This was true even before Roberts and McConnell engineered the takeover of the federal judiciary.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Preventing it from happening, again."

    Now, THERE is an idea that gets put into little use, if any. :(

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Speak2,

    This was true even before Roberts and McConnell engineered the takeover of the federal judiciary.

    You left out the bit about the support for this of the American people.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Joshua,

    I just started reading the first few paragraphs of the George Packer piece you posted but I don't have time right now to read it properly. Can't wait to finish it and discuss!

    The quote you posted from it hooked me real good! :)

  8. [8] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    CW

    You may be out of step with reality devoting so much verbiage to the insanity of some elements of U.S. domestic politics, when the world at large is coming unglued.

    The economy, U.S. and international, is poisd to sink the Democrat party for a generation.

  9. [9] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    (Not to imply that the country wouldn't be better off withoudt the Democrat party, but for gawdsake, you've gotta remember that the alternative could be a world-class asshole/idiot/scumbag!)

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Not to imply that the country wouldn't be better off without

    @crs,

    That's three negatives in one dependent clause. I'm seriously not sure what you mean.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Yeah, I thought the heat was getting to me ... feels like 40C here ...

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    poet

    Sorry for the opacity. I actually intended my [10] to be attached as continuation at the end of [9].

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heh.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    6

    You left out the bit about the support for this of the American people.

    I would wager without hesitation that it wasn't "left out" at all. I'm going to go out on a limb here and postulate that Speak2 doesn't paint all Americans with as broad a brush as you're suggesting is required, Canada.

    If you feel that way about Americans, maybe you can see your way fit to apply that same broad brush of yours to the Ukrainians who supported Zelensky. Just saying. :)

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Oh, not a broad brush at all! Just enough to elect the kind of pols who make life interesting. :)

    I sure am glad that the American people as a whole aren't nearly as hypersensitive as you are, Kick. Heh.

    As for the Ukrainian people ... there is no reason on this earth why they should have been made to suffer the horrors of this stupid and unecessary war. None, whatsoever.

    Which, I hasten to add, doesn't bode well for all the rest of us, either. :(

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, that last bit was definitely me painting with a broad brush!

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Besides, Kick, if I didn't love America or the idea of it and Americans, then I wouldn't be here or care so much.

    Yeah, that's me being my hypersensitive self. Heh.

  18. [18] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    15

    I sure am glad that the American people as a whole aren't nearly as hypersensitive as you are, Kick. Heh.

    Your proclamations regarding the "American people as a whole" are as patently incorrect as your declarations regarding me personally. In fact, you could not be more wrong about me.

    If you insist that Speak2 "left out" your assertion that "the American people" were in support of an engineered takeover of the federal judiciary by Roberts and/or McConnell, I can't help the fact that you're obviously seriously misinformed regarding "the American people."

    As for the Ukrainian people ... there is no reason on this earth why they should have been made to suffer the horrors of this stupid and unecessary war. None, whatsoever.

    This one is not hard, Elizabeth. How was war not necessary? When Putin declared war on Ukraine and invaded their country, they had two choices:

    (1) Surrender immediately.
    (2) Fight for their freedom.

    Your insistence that war in Ukraine could have been easily avoided by the appeasement of Putin and his "NATO concerns" is ridiculous on its face. If Putin was actually concerned about NATO nations, capturing Ukraine would constitute a self-created self-fulfilling prophecy with multiple NATO nations bordering Russia on the East.

    Putin's aim at the outset was obviously the expansion of Russia. Not rocket science.

    Which, I hasten to add, doesn't bode well for all the rest of us,
    either. :(

    War is unavoidable when an authoritarian wishes to own you while you insist on retaining your freedom.

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