It's been a given that Democrats would benefit from an official probe into the Jan. 6 rampage on the Capitol and Republicans would not. The thinking goes that Democrats would use a commission report to bash Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections. It would certainly detail how former President Donald Trump incited his supporters to commit the outrage.
Where Republicans err is believing that without a report, Democrats won't have the ammo to bash them effectively. But the trauma of that day is already seared in the American brain.
Legislation passed by the House would establish a 10-member commission appointed equally by Democrats and Republicans. Without Republican input, the official story of Jan. 6 will be told by historians, journalists and the courts.
That was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's argument. "It's not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress," he said.
He's missing something. The trials of those who ransacked the Capitol will hardly help the Republican cause. And with Trump and many in the party continuing to reject the outcome of the election, Republicans would lose another chance to turn around the public's perception that they've got a screw loose.
It is rare that a president's party adds seats in midterm elections, but Republicans made that happen in 2002 under George W. Bush. That's because they campaigned on the terror of 9/11. They didn't need fancy explanations, because the national calamity — jetliners crashing into the World Trade Center —was so visual and visceral.
The same can be said of the horrific imagery that emerged from Jan. 6 as Trump supporters vandalized the Capitol and beat cops with flagpoles. It's all on video.
And so is the rally at the Ellipse, where Trump pushed the dangerous lie: "We will never give up. We will never concede. ... You don't concede when there's theft involved."
Back in 2002, fear of terrorism created a new group of voters, the so-called security moms, who rewarded Republicans in the midterms. Shortly after, former President Bill Clinton criticized his party for failing to address Americans' widespread anxiety. "We have to have a clear and strong national security stand," he said.
Two years later, Bush was reelected, despite growing dismay at his Iraq War. Clinton had already seen that coming. "When people are feeling insecure," he'd said in 2002, "they'd rather have someone who is strong and wrong rather than somebody who is weak and right."
The recent election showed that Trumpification has already cost the Republican Party female voters, now called suburban moms. Come the midterms, these women won't like pictures of furniture piled up at the House chamber doors and officers with guns drawn as the mob tried to enter.
Some Republicans open to a commission pushed for a Dec. 31 deadline to wrap up its work. That would have provided very little time to do an adequate job, but, they reasoned, in getting it over with by year end, the results wouldn't be waved at their candidates right before the midterms.
Republicans can't possibly believe that Democrats won't be featuring that sickening day in their campaign ads, however old a commission report. Republicans would be better off if they kept their hands in telling the story. They could have used their cooperation to do what Clinton wanted Democrats to do in 2002: to reassure the public that the democracy will be defended.
If they don't want to help construct a respected explanation of the awful events of Jan. 6, then fine. Democrats will be happy to do it.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected] To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
Photo credit Tyler Merbler