January 6 and America’s Ambivalence on Political Accountability
The January 6th Select Committee recently acquitted former Vice President Mike Pence of responsibility for the events of that day by praising him as a profile on bravery as he proved the November 2020 election. Wait a minute. Pence is one and still remains among the voices that perpetuate “big lies,” questioning the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The committee also threatens to destroy the principle of broader political accountability for Jan. 6. Pence is not alone in prevaricating. Based on the testimony of Mark Meadows ’former aide Cassidy Hutchinson on June 28, and other information available to the public, key White House aides who knew something was wrong and Cabinet officials who thought to ask the 25th amendment to remove former President Donald Trump for incompetence. none of the public alerts Americans to the danger facing their democracy.
Most of these individuals are not asked to appear before the committee, and they remain silent. Just on June 29, after Hutchinson’s testimony, former White House attorney Pat Cipollone was subpoenaed to testify-off-camera. He was reported to have threatened to resign several times in the weeks before the insurrection but did not explain why. Cipollone may testify to any criminal activity he may have witnessed without violating the executive’s privilege. It remains to be seen if he did during his closed door testimony on July 8.
These high -ranking officials with public confidence should not be regarded as heroes or caring citizens because they had reservations at the time about efforts to reverse the election results and elect new electors. state. They didn’t act – not in January. 6, not in the weeks before the insurrection, and not in consequence of the fallen severity of the incident. Some, such as former Attorney General William Barr, who allowed the Department of Justice to look into “vote tabulation irregularities” – to the objections of the Election Crimes Branch head who instead resigned – cooperated in the early stages of attempt to discredit the election results. They are given an accountability pass.
Their actions may or may not be prosecuting, but political liability should go beyond generating court cases and establishing criminal liability. Not all situations give themselves to this result. The evidence trail at Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals gave way for the beliefs of political figures; the path forward is less clear for the events of Jan. 6 but evidence emerges pointing in the same direction, and as the Department of Justice is prosecuting hundreds of individuals involved in the attack on the Capitol.
An important study by the non-partisan Protect Democracy Project laid out what broader political accountability would look like for January 6. This included building “a full record of wrongdoing; continue[ing] restraint by consequences for wrongdoing; rebuild[ing] prescriptive norms of acceptable political conduct; at generat[ing] shared narrative. ” The result is that doing so “can combat disinformation and. . . lay the political foundation for institutional reforms. ”
This cannot happen if accountability and responsibility are relativized – which is what is happening across the American political spectrum. Political justices in the Supreme Court pretend to be a play of ideological power as a constitutional debate on the legality of abortion-normalized and enabled by so many critical commentators willing to argue the finer points of Roe against Wade decision. Despite the recommendations of law experts and the Accountability 2021 project on the need for reforms after the Trump years, the Biden administration is acting as if federal institutions have been restored through an election. Decapitation videos and “hunting the RINOs” campaign ads by congressional representatives and candidates are being used as part of the political scene despite concerns about the growing use of violent rhetoric in political discourse. Congress and the White House regard the gun safety compromise as a success and deserve applause as they side with the Supreme Court undermining their efforts by reversing New York’s ban on carrying concealed firearms. Since George Floyd was assassinated two years ago, the theory of white supremacy has only seemed to be growing stronger, without national headlines, and questionable law enforcement shootings of unarmed Blacks continue. – and continues to be justified by the police.
Pence’s rehabilitation was particularly troubling. It was a politician who in March 2021, two months after January 6th, continued the lies of doubt over the November 2020 election result in an op-ed: “After an election marked by significant irregularities in voting and the many instances of officials setting aside state election laws, I share the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of the 2020 election. ” He did not show “courage” on Jan. 6, only the suitability of a politician to consult multiple advisers before making a clear decision that he could not disrupt the election certification process without serious consequences for him as well. in the country.
In fact, to paint Pence as an unwilling participant dragged into Trump’s scheme ignores the fact that Pence himself can claim to be present in creating disinformation efforts about election results. As early as 2016, he alleged widespread voter registration fraud possibly involving thousands of people in his home state of Indiana, although no evidence was found to support the claims. After the 2016 presidential election, which Donald Trump won, Pence was named chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity which, among other things, was meant to look at unsubstantiated allegations that millions have not. document citizens voted in the election in 2016. – an allegation supported by Pence. In December 2020, as vice president, Pence openly supported Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to retract election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
On January 2, 2021, four days before the January insurrection. 6, Pence supported through a spokesman the efforts of Senator Ted Cruz and ten other Republican senators to oppose the certification of the November 2020 elections until a ten-day audit of the completed results in the disputed state. It’s hard not to make the conclusion that Pence will be playing on both sides until the very eve of Jan. 6. His tactical silence since his aforementioned op-ed last year appears to be just that because he supports efforts at states like Texas that restrict voting rights.
Responsibility is about the future as much as the past. While standing today, Pence will escape responsibility for standing on the sideline after the November 2020 election and for his silence after January 6th. In the meantime, he helped create the environment for the Texas Republican Party platform, which denied the legitimacy of Biden’s election in June 2022. Across the country, Republicans opposed Trump’s efforts to overthrow the elections, such as Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, has refused to exclude re -voting for the former president in 2024. In fact, they are licensing Trump and state legislatures and members of the House to reverse the process. The debate in some circles about the wisdom of charging Trump must be substantiated by evidence that it also relativizes accountability; there was no such doubt about the charge of foot soldiers on January 6. The aforementioned “prescriptive standards of acceptable political conduct” were weakened
The committee on Jan. 6 may not have been too “applauded,” to paraphrase David Brooks, but the acquittal of Mike Pence from responsibility also plays into the counter-narrative of a wrong election, and points to a blurring of the purpose laid out by Representative Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the January 6th Select Committee, of “a real consideration of what happened, and what led to the attack on our Constitution and our democracy.”
Washington, DC, is a town with short memories, or no memories. Most of the time it seems unimportant in the sweep of history. In this case, American democracy, its institutions, and its people will pay off unless its collective tendency to amnesia about historical events is reversed, and meaningful responsibility returns to the political sky.