As the January 6 hearings commenced, an old and trusted friend commented to me that he thought only the production of a smoking gun would be likely to change any minds in our current calcified, hyperpartisan political climate. Many pundits have echoed that opinion.
Yes and no, say I.
We all understood going in that for the roughly 30% of Americans who would push their own mothers off a cliff if Donald Trump told them to, nothing — nothing! — will change their minds about the Insurrection or The Former Guy’s culpability for it. Not even a smoking gun. In his hand. On video. With Trump shouting, “I did it.”
Because the fact is, there has been a smoking gun in plain view ever since that tragic afternoon itself — a smoking cannon, in fact. A 155mm self-propelled howitzer. A Gerald Bull-style Supergun that can launch a Volkswagen-sized satellite into outer space.
We’ve known all along that the Insurrection was no spontaneous riot, no church picnic that got out of control, no false flag operation, but a well-planned, coordinated attempt by the Trump campaign to use political violence as part of an effort to stop the count of electoral votes and steal the election for their guy. And it came at the end of a months-long (even years-long) Republican effort to undermine confidence in the results of the election full stop, thereby creating circumstances that would enable Trump to stay in office. That was all painfully evident to anyone who lived and breathed in America during the last presidential campaign, and who watched events unfold that January afternoon, and who was not guzzling Fox Brand Kool-Aid. As was Donald Trump’s fundamental responsibility for all of it.
To use the legal formulation, if not for Trump, those people who stormed the Capitol do not come to DC, do not mass on the Ellipse, do not get worked up into a foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy, do not march on the People’s House, do not erect a gallows to lynch Mike Pence, do not beat law enforcement officers with Blue Lives Matter flags, do not breach the building, do not roam its halls chillingly calling out Nancy Pelosi’s name in order to murder her, and so on and so forth. As the Internet meme goes, on January 6, 2021 a frantic Kevin McCarthy knew who to phone to try to call off the attack, and it wasn’t the antifa or BLM or the FBI. Because he…