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Let’s All Calm Down About the Jan. 6 Commission

Despite what so many professional politics-knowers would have you believe, there's no such thing as a congressional silver bullet for fascism.

screenshot / CNN

Over the past few years, the professional pundit class has gotten very good at one thing. They look at the two prevailing political forces in this country — the rot of right wing authoritarianism and the left wing’s fealty to Rules™ that no one else seems to care about — and determine that what the country really needs is to take a step back and return to normalcy. Normalcy is what got us to this point. But they do not like to say that part.

This sentiment — that “if only those very ghouls who revel in the acquisition of power by any means necessary would just agree to play the same game as everyone else, all our problems would be solved!” helped fuel the misplaced belief that Robert Mueller’s lackluster, by-the-book investigation would result in the spectacular perp-walk of Donald Trump and his entire shitty family. And now we are doing it all over again, with endless and breathless updates on the Congressional inquiry into the January 6 insurrection, as if the process is somehow a silver bullet to address an attempted fascist coup, launched and supported by people who have made it very clear they do not give a fuck about Congress.

I sincerely wish I possessed this kind of Pollyanna-ish naivete! There are many people who are shocked — shocked — at the newest report that a whole lot of people in Trump’s inner circle knew that a mob of crazed MAGA freaks were storming the capitol building at the president’s request. Wowie!

You know who else knew the attempted coup was bad, and that Trump’s inner circle — and he himself — were directly to blame? Literally everyone who saw the president spend weeks hyping a rally where he stood up in front of a bank of television cameras and directed his followers to storm the capital, which was then broadcast across multiple TV networks in real time. All these latest revelations do is backfill some interesting — but hardly consequential — gaps in what is otherwise a pretty straightforward sequence of events.

Which isn’t to say the Jan. 6 committee’s work isn’t significant. It is, to a point. But for the most part their significance is less about offering a new understanding of a thing we all watched happen, and more about validating the belief that the lawmakers who sit on the committee can actually do something about it.

That, unfortunately, is where the whole thing falls apart.

Sure, I suppose we might get a few mid-tier MAGA croneys to actually face some sort of consequence for their role in the insurrection (although so far the only actual indictments have been on a procedural basis). But despite what the very same breed of hysterical #resistance grifters who overhyped the Mueller investigation would have you believe this time, nothing is going to fundamentally change, no matter which ridiculous lib-porn fantasy scenario they’re shouting about on any given day. Put another way: the solution to a Trump-ist cult of personality that has repeatedly demonstrated how little it cares about Congress is not, despite what the January 6 commission would have you believe, to simply do more Congress at it. This is especially true given how adept that same movement has been at infiltrating, and subverting Congress itself! Despite what many well intentioned people with “vote blue no matter who” in their Twitter bios insist, Congress is not the perfect antidote to conservative proto-fascism.

The January 6 commission isn’t a waste of time. At least, not yet. Some good may still come out of it — I hope so! —but there’s a fundamental problem in worshiping at the altar of an institution that, in trying to get to the bottom of an event that nearly destroyed it, nevertheless touts its fidelity to the very archaic rules, formalities, and structural weaknesses that made it so susceptible to the march of fascism in the first place.