Mob rule

There was no shortage of discussion of January 6, 2021 in the twelve months that followed. The few hours during which a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol have been exhaustively raked over by newspaper reporters and deployed as a talking point by television pundits. The riot is regularly nodded to by Democratic politicians as justification for everything from an overhaul of voting laws to increased infrastructure spending. Even those on the part of the right who would rather pretend it never happened occasionally find themselves having to explain, contextualize or acknowledge events in the US Capitol a year ago today.

And yet, the actual events of January 6 have a way of getting lost in the endless, unedifying and often bad-faith January 6 discourse. The first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol is therefore a chance to refocus on what actually happened. A crowd egged on by the lies of a president trying to overturn the results of an election ransacked the Capitol. Some of his supporters came to Washington prepared for violence, others were swept up in it. The upshot is that Trump and his mob used falsehoods and force to interrupt Congress’s certification of election results — but only briefly, bending but not breaking America’s constitutional order.

Many conservatives have grown allergic to these basic facts: an allergy arising in part from the zeal with which some on the left have used the attack to tar the Republican Party as little more than a terrorist organization, and the hyperbolic characterization of a very bad day for US democracy as somehow as serious an atrocity as 9/11. Events can be blown out of proportion, but they can be minimized too. Keeping a sense of perspective is a two-way challenge.

In a laudably clear-headed article for the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove asks fellow Republicans to try a thought experiment: “What if the other side had done it,” he asks. “What if in early January 2017, Democrats similarly attired and armed had stormed the Capitol and attempted to keep Congress from receiving the Electoral College results for the 2016 presidential election?”

To ask the question is to answer it, of course. Rove calls on Republicans to “put country ahead of party” and argues that “there can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy.”

One group of Republicans who seem willing to put country ahead of party are those open to working with Democrats on changes to the Electoral Count Act. Unlike the voting legislation that Democrats have put at the center of their democracy agenda, the Electoral Count Act actually relates to the means by which Trump sought to obstruct the transfer of power after the 2020 election.

Yesterday, Susan Collins convened a meeting of eight senators, including fellow Republicans Ron Johnson, Steve Daines, Mitt Romney, Thom Tillis and Roger Wicker, to talk about possible reforms to the law that deals with post-election administration. Politico reported that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell signaled he might be open to backing changes. “It obviously has some flaws. And it is worth, I think, discussing,” he said.

Surely this would be a welcome development — one that would have the credibility of bipartisan support and would be backed by the many political leaders who have delivered grave warnings about the imminent demise of American democracy over the last twelve months. Not so. The White House and Democratic leadership on the Hill have shown no appetite for this kind of compromise. White House spokesman Andrew Bates said that when it comes to the two sweeping voting law bills that Democrats are trying (and failing) to get through Congress, “there is no substitute. Period.”

“Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people,” Joe Biden asked in a speech at the Capitol this morning. Making sure the answer is “no” will take exactly the sort of bipartisan action that this administration appears to have ruled out.

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The two-part pipe bomb mystery

The pipe bombs planted outside both DNC and RNC headquarters on the night of January 5, 2021 are a two-part mystery. The first is the crime itself, which remains unsolved. Authorities have footage of a hooded figure dumping backpacks containing the bombs outside the two buildings. But the culprit’s identity remains unknown.

The second is why this part of the January 6 story doesn’t get more attention. Not as eye-catching as the QAnon shaman, perhaps. But probably the most serious attempt at political violence in the whole ugly episode. And yet it is relegated to a subplot in the story of the attack on the Capitol.

Grisham goes all-in

Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham answered the questions of the House committee investigating January 6 yesterday. The one-time Trump aide said she had “cooperated fully with the committee.”

On CNN this morning, she said that next week she and other former administration officials are going to “come together and talk about how we can formally do some things to try and stop him.” While this is unlikely to amount to very much, Grisham continues to be one of the most forthright aides-turned-critics of the former president. In her CNN interview she also offered further behind-the-scenes details of the president’s conduct on January 6. According to Grisham, he was “gleefully” watching what was happening on a television in the White House dining room. He was rewinding and rewatching, she said, and remarked “Look at all those people fighting for me.”

What you should be reading today

Daniel McCarthy: January 6 was an alarm bell
Rachel K. Paulose: Time’s up, Prince Andrew
Ben Sixsmith: The Capitol riot transformed right-wing activism in America
Michael Lind, Project Syndicate: The real threat to American democracy
Laurence Noonan, Wall Street Journal: Europe struggles to meet China’s trade challenge
Samuel Goldman, the Week: The Capitol riot’s roots in the New Left

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 42.5 percent
Disapprove: 54.0 percent
Net approval: -11.5 (RCP Average)

Percentage of American adults who traveled by air
2015: 44 percent
2021: 38 percent (Gallup)

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