Why the January 6th Commission Matters

Capitol Attack by Tyler Merbler via Wiki Commons

After a year, the infamous January 6th assault on the Capitol remains a potent and painful reminder of how fragile our Democracy truly is. With the investigation into the Capitol attack still ongoing and increased opposition from Trump loyalists, many are left with questions about what purpose this commission serves. For some, it is a brazen attempt by Democrats to use a tragedy to attack their political enemies. Others, however, see it as a much-needed investigation into a dangerous moment in American history. And Trump himself rejects the commission outright. With a year of hindsight behind us, Americans must come to terms with what happened that day and how our government will uncover the truth about how our centuries-long tradition of peaceful elections came to an end.

THE POLITICAL DIVIDE

Right off the bat, it is important to note that there is a partisan divide influencing the narrative surrounding the commission’s investigation and the attack on the Capitol itself. While most Americans across the political spectrum disapprove of the violence that took place that day, the significance of the attack itself remains a contentious point. Among Democrats, 85 percent say that the attack constituted an insurrection, while only 21 percent of Republicans say the same. Similarly, Republicans are more likely to see the reason for the attack in a positive light, with 47 percent saying that the attack was motivated by patriotism and 56 percent saying that the rioters were defending freedom.

9-capitol-descriptors-by-party.png
Screenshot of polling taken from CBS News

To add to this division of viewpoints, Republicans are also more likely to deny that Trump supporters were responsible for the attack on the Capitol than most Americans. While 41 percent of Americans said that the rioters were typical supporters of the former president, only 9 percent of Republicans said the same. For those 50 percent of Republicans who did acknowledge that the assailants were Trump supporters, they also said that they were not typical of the larger movement.

12-trump-supporters-capitol.png
Screenshot of polling taken from CBS News

In the aggregate, 79 of Americans said that Trump supporters were the ones who attacked the Capitol while only 59 percent of Republicans said the same, per the YouGov polling. That is a 20 point difference. That divide does not go away with time, and it is because of that difference, the commission is of increasing importance. So long as there is a desire to avoid addressing the Trump movement’s role in the Capitol insurrection, our political system will continue to operate in two different worlds, something that will further lead to violence.

TRANSPARENCY

Whenever there is a horrible attack on our country, it is almost inevitable that people demand answers. Why wouldn’t we? The people have a right to know why our house was attacked and why many of the men and women who perpetuated lies that led to said attack are not in custody. Nor would it be unprecedented for Congress to investigate the details leading up to the attack, especially regarding the police’s response.

After Pearl Harbor, Congress had to postpone their investigation to help support the war effort against the Japanese and Germans, but that didn’t mean the legislature dropped the issue. Indeed, Senators picked up the investigation in 1945, establishing a joint commission under then-Chairman Alben Barkley and released its report a year later, which found that commanders in Washington, along with the former secretary of state Cordell Hull and army chief of staff General George Marshall were responsible for the poor defense of American naval bases. The people had an explanation. It would not be the last report of its kind.

After the Twin Towers fell on September 11th, the U.S. was again plunged into war, and the people demanded answers from an administration that failed to defend our country. Again, a commission was formed to explain how our nation’s leadership had failed so miserably to prevent such a tragic attack. By 2004, the commission gave its final report and disbanded. Their work demonstrates systemic failures by the FBI and CIA, including the CIA’s failure to acknowledge that they were monitoring two of the hijackers as they entered the country.

While it is possible this commission could have expanded into a larger fight over CIA accountability, which it probably should have, the report did what it was intended to do, explain a horrible tragedy to the people and provide the means to prevent further failures from occurring.

We are once again tasked with explaining to the people how our nation was caught off guard and why we, as a nation, have to endure the horrible consequences that come with it. It is far from an easy task. Nor will it be pleasant. But no investigation worth conducting is pleasant. Our nation has enjoyed a peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next since John Adams and that tradition was shattered in what could only be described as an act of terror by our own people. Now is the time for our government to explain how this happened and how we can prevent it. It is time to establish who is responsible and hold them accountable, even if we have to drag witnesses to the stand.

HISTORY IS BEING MADE

It is the obligation of this commission and the nation to demand answers and to uncover the truth about that historic day on January 6th. A narrative is being written about that day and it is this commission’s duty to set the record straight for future generations to draw upon. And should the commission fail to fulfill that critical duty, it will have let a grave injustice go unanswered.

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