Column: Jan. 6 hearings are must-watch TV. Insurrectionists are coming for your country

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot listens to a video.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot listens to a video of then-President Trump .
(Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)
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On Thursday night, a House committee investigating the attempted Jan. 6 coup — let’s not mince words — began its public hearings in television’s prime time.

In lurid detail and with graphic video, the committee limned the violent attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election, the political sabotage perpetrated on behalf of the mendacious President Trump and how very nearly the turncoats and insurrectionists succeeded.

It will be a pleasant surprise if those hearings draw anything approaching the attention and fanfare accorded the sequel to “Top Gun” and its Hollywood brand of chesty patriotism.


As the committee laid out, Jan. 6 was only part of a broader effort to subvert our elections process, which continues as Trump acolytes try to win office around the country and seize control of its voting machinery ahead of the 2024 campaign.

Dunderheads like pro football coach Jack Del Rio can refer to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, as a mere “dust-up.” Performers like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, who long ago bartered their integrity and believability for money and ratings, can peddle their noisome pro-Trump propaganda on Fox News.

The hearing, taking place in prime time after over 10 months of closed-door investigations, marks the committee’s initial report to the American public and places responsibility for the attack on then-President Trump.

June 9, 2022

It’s politicians like House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and his second-in-command, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who need to be held to account.

McCarthy’s cowardly quiescence to Trump — rightly blaming him for the events of Jan. 6, then tucking tail and scurrying to Mar-a-Lago to beg forgiveness — has been thoroughly documented. There is virtually no chance he will lose his seat in November, given his congressional district’s strong GOP tilt.

But it’s worth examining the political strategy behind McCarthy’s fecklessness and efforts he and other Republicans continually pursue to push the attempted coup down a memory hole.

It is the same tactic applied every time there is a mass shooting and the issue of gun control resurfaces.


Unfortunately it seems to be working.

The first step comes while events are unfolding or in the immediate aftermath, when memories are fresh and the public impulse for action is strong. It is wrong, McCarthy and his kind solemnly declare, to “politicize” things by acting in the moment, or even discussing remedial action.

The next step, after time passes, is to suggest the events have become old news, are no longer relevant or have been superseded by other, more pressing concerns.

“Is Nancy Pelosi going to hold a prime time hearing on inflation?” Scalise asked rhetorically of the San Francisco Democrat and House speaker at a news conference, known in political parlance as a “prebuttal” to Thursday night’s hearing. “Is Nancy Pelosi going to hold a prime time hearing on gas prices?”

For his part, McCarthy fatuously asserted that “everybody in the country [bore] some responsibility” for the events of Jan. 6.

Which means nobody does. And certainly not Trump.

That sort of delay and deflection help illustrate why founders of the country were dubious of political parties. Their concern was that elected representatives would forsake the greater good in the name of loyalty to their particular faction.

And so they have.

Unfortunately, the stall tactic seems to be working as the calendar turns and recollections of Jan. 6, 2021, grow ever more dim.


Preferring substance over spectacle, real emotion over grandstanding, the first night of the Jan. 6 hearings successfully grabbed America’s attention.

June 9, 2022

In an NBC poll taken in the days afterward, 52% of those surveyed said Trump was either solely or mainly responsible for the attack on the Capitol. In a recent follow-up, that number dropped to 45%.

That is why the hearings that began Thursday and resume next week are so important and deserve to be widely followed and deeply absorbed.

Entertainment has its place, and escapism is understandable when the world seems to be closing in like four walls around us.

It is not selfish or negligent to be concerned about the soaring price for a gallon of gas, the country’s shortage of baby formula, a lack of affordable shelter or getting about town without being hit over the head, or worse.

But those day-to-day concerns shouldn’t preempt our focus when there is an ongoing and active attempt to topple the very pillars propping up our democracy.

At times like these, Benjamin Franklin is reliably summoned for his durable quote on the fragility of our self-government.


While the provenance of his words — “a republic, if you can keep it” — are debated, the underlying sentiment is not.

The maintenance of our political system, and its underlying freedoms, require constant vigilance, informed engagement and unceasing public involvement.

It takes work, in short, and we’re doing a lousy job of it.

On Tuesday California held an election and fewer than a quarter of eligible voters bothered taking part.

Staying informed is the minimal investment we need to make as citizens. Holding our elected leaders accountable is vital. Voting is the way to do so.

We shirk those responsibilities at our peril.