It’s understandable that Democrats want to constantly revisit January 6 — to invoke it, investigate it, and even sanctify it.
It’s a mystery, at least from some level of abstraction, why Republicans would want to have anything to do with that day or focus on the 2020 election.
Party poised for midterm triumph, has huge openings on economy and education thanks to Biden administration stumbles and leftist overreach, making inroads among Hispanic voters and has a well-stocked political bench that Democrats should envy.
Yet the GOP is stuck pleading the past almost entirely because its putative leader at Mara-a-lago is unable to admit error or defeat and will never stop trying to excuse and explain his conduct. infamous after November 2020.
You can say that January 6 was not an insurrection; that the composition of the committee is unfair and devoid of the adversarial element that has always been presumed to be at the heart of the functioning of these bodies; that the committee’s revelations or supposed revelations are overhyped; and that Trump, whatever his faults, did not commit crimes and should not be charged with them.
In fact, I agree with each of these propositions. But none of them make January 6 better or better.
It is not entirely true, as is often said, that every election is about the future. Republicans have waved the bloody Civil War shirt for years. The Democrats ran against Herbert Hoover for as long as they could. Republicans are still talking about Jimmy Carter.
In all of these cases, however, one party emphasized a low and embarrassing moment for the other party, not their own.
Revisionist historians and writers might appear to defend the legacy of a Hoover or a Carter or claim that they have been misrepresented or unjustly slandered. Still, the parties continued and focused on making new memories.
This is what Trump does not want to allow Republicans to do. With his talent for brutal marketing (Fake News, Russia Hoax), he believes he can deflect any attack and redefine the terms of the debate as he pleases. And he is not wrong. He brought much of his party with him in his insistence that 2020 was stolen.
His attitude towards January 6 has not become more defensive over time, but more comprehensive. In a statement last week, he called it “the greatest movement in the history of the country to make America great again.” His 12-page memo in response to the initial hearings doubled down on his fantastic case against the election, as if to back up everything former Attorney General Bill Barr has said about him.
Trump is acting on an entirely personal and selfish priority. There is no principle at stake in embracing the Jan 6 crowd or advancing 2020 conspiracy theories.
It is possible to defend freedom of speech and assembly, of course, without defending a violation of the US Capitol. It is possible to support increased security around the vote without believing that massive fraud changed the outcome in 2020.
If Trump is the Republican nominee again in 2024, even in the unlikely event that he wants to break through the memory on Jan. 6, that wouldn’t happen. The Democrats would talk about it tirelessly. Maybe that wouldn’t work, but why would Republicans want to risk it or even deal with the complication?
Again, this is a Trump-specific vulnerability. No other potential 2024 candidate would have to excuse Jan. 6 and repeat the wildest claims about the 2020 election, not Ron DeSantis, not Mike Pence, not Tom Cotton, not Nikki Haley. If any of these candidates were anything like Liz Cheney, neither would they be inextricably linked to bonkers events four years prior.
They would be freed from the albatross of 2020 and any obligation to defend the indefensible, leaving the Jan. 6 obsession to congressional Democrats — and Donald J. Trump.
Rich Lowry is a syndicated columnist. He’s on Twitter: @RichLowry.
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