Column: The real lesson of the Jan. 6 committee? Stop electing Trump sycophants to Congress

Members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection attend a hearing.
Members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol listen Monday as Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), fifth from left, lays out a case against former President Trump.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Kermit Jones doesn’t want to make everything about Donald Trump.

He’s a Black Democrat who — much to his surprise — has found himself in a long-shot bid for Congress, facing a November runoff against Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley in a Northern California district that leans white and conservative.

It’s one of a handful of crucial races that could help determine the balance of power in Washington at a very delicate moment for democracy.

So, even as a House committee investigates last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol and lays out its case against the former president, connecting his lies about election fraud to the far-right violence, Jones has been choosing his words carefully.


“We have a group of people who, for whatever reason, kind of forgot what this country is supposed to stand for,” he said. “People on Jan. 6, I don’t know, they lost their way.”

The committee is gradually revealing the evidence it has collected about President Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Sept. 8, 2022

But when pressed, Jones isn’t afraid to engage in the sort of independent thinking and truth telling that so many other political candidates seem to have abandoned in their pursuit of Republican voters.

“Trump is culpable in this,” he said. “I do think that we came the closest we ever came since our democracy was created to being turned into an autocracy.“

Many Republicans have tried to frame the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings, now in their second week, as a ploy dreamed up by Democrats to distract voters from the country’s many problems under President Biden, from rising gas prices to supply-chain woes.

Instead, the hearings have been a bipartisan demonstration of exactly why we need more people like Jones in Congress — and why we don’t need more white-supremacist-enabling, Trump-backed sycophants who conveniently turn a blind eye to the “Big Lie.”

Like Rep. Mike Garcia, who is up for reelection and locked in an hotly contested rematch with former Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the newly redrawn 27th District in northern Los Angeles County. His track record includes refusing to certify the presidential election results in Pennsylvania and Arizona, and declining to impeach Trump for his role in the insurrection or vote for an independent commission to investigate it.


And like Kiley, who has made a name for himself in Republican circles representing the city of Rocklin, just east of Sacramento. He has been endorsed by Trump and has given zero indication that he would be a check or a balance as a member of Congress.

Jones is under no illusions about what it will take and how hard it will be to win in November.

“The big advantage [Kiley] has is he has the money machine behind him, because the GOP wants this seat,” he said. “They’re not worried about democracy. They don’t care about representation. They only care about power.”

Fundraising will be essential, he said, “because we know the GOP is going to pour a crap ton of money in.”


Congressional candidate Kermit Jones.
Kermit Jones is a congressional candidate running in a Northern California district that has traditionally voted Republican. But Jones won the recent primary and says he has a shot at turning the district blue.
(Anita Chabria / Los Angeles Times)

Jones has had a lot of careers in his life. Politics is merely the aspirational latest.

Right now, he’s a physician who specializes in internal medicine. On most days, the 46-year-old makes a commute from the home he shares with his wife and children in Woodland to work in Vacaville, Auburn and Roseville — sometimes nearly 50 miles each way.

It’s a fairly rural swath of California, dotted with farms and strip malls perched on increasingly parched rolling hills, but it suits him.

Jones was raised on a blueberry farm in South Haven, Mich., a town of about 4,300. His parents moved the family there from Chicago to escape their violent neighborhood.

Out of high school, Jones joined an elite program to train for a dual career in medicine and in law. But after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, he felt the tug of civic duty and joined the Navy, training to be a flight surgeon. He served two tours in Iraq before landing in California.

That military service, Jones said, influenced his politics, making him more conservative, even though he is a staunch supporter of abortion rights and knows that Biden was elected fair and square. The world can be a dangerous place, Jones warns, and so people have to be self-reliant.

Those are the values that, even as a Democrat, he hopes will serve as a common ground with voters in the newly redrawn 3rd District.


About the size of West Virginia, it stretches from Plumas County in the northeast, through Sacramento’s suburbs and far south into Inyo County, between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Nevada state line. Politically, it’s more aligned with Appalachia than the Golden State’s laissez-faire approach to life.

And yet, based on the latest results, the good doctor won 40% of the vote in last week’s primary election, besting both Kiley and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a Republican known for border-bashing rhetoric and his own dalliances with the former president. Thank goodness we were spared a runoff pitting two Trump grovelers trying to out-grovel each other.

It’s more proof that being Trumpian, while no longer a guarantee of getting elected, clearly still holds a certain appeal.

In a new analysis, the Washington Post found that, through the end of May, voters picked at least 108 candidates for statewide office or Congress who say the presidential election was rigged. That number jumps to about 150 when you include candidates who have advocated for more restrictions on voting to prevent fraud, despite the lack of evidence.

In Nevada, candidate who spread Trump election lies wins primary, while in South Carolina, candidates who defied Trump face disparate fates.

June 15, 2022

Kiley is a pure Trumpian.

He spent the pandemic railing against public health measures and mail-in voting, going so far as to sue Gov. Gavin Newsom for what he described as the “greatest example of executive overreach in modern history.”

When an appeals court overturned Kiley’s initial victory and the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, he offered a Trump-style rejoinder: “They literally have nothing to say about it. Sad.”


At a recent debate, he affirmed that he is against abortion rights and believes the leaked Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe vs. Wade is the “appropriate decision from a constitutional point of view.” Asked whether Biden was legitimately elected, Kiley refused to give a straight answer, instead repeating twice that it “depends on what you mean by legitimate.”

It’s not unlike some the testimony we’ve heard at hearings by the Jan. 6 committee.

On Monday, the discussion focused on how many people in Trump’s orbit told him that his claims of election fraud were false while others enabled him. We already know that several Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, were among the latter group.

The result of all this spineless activity was an insurrection that claimed lives, emboldened white supremacists and, according to the committee, nearly led to a coup.

It’s a shame that merely standing up for the truth about the Big Lie is what passes for political courage these days. But rewarding those who do, regardless of party, is the real lesson we should take from the Jan. 6 committee.

Because bad things will happen, even in California, if we don’t.

Jones is hopeful. Yes, he split the Republican vote in the primary to end up in the November runoff. But that he, a Democrat, will appear on the ballot at all is a chance for California to help the country.

In the end, though, Jones said he is running for Congress for a much more personal reason: his mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer in 2018.


Jones has spent many frustrating days and nights navigating the nation’s healthcare system from the other side of the stethoscope. He said he’s tired of political talking points and policies from elected officials who don’t really understand the issues, especially when it comes to healthcare.

“There are a lot of people that, at the end of the day, want someone who’s going to be a straight shooter,” Jones said. “And that’s why I think we’re getting the support.”