For those of us who watched them, the televised January 6 committee hearings were real game changers. I still recall how brilliantly those hearings were conducted. I remember how surprised many of the talking heads were that something that compelling and that convincing could be created by members of Congress.
There was just one problem. MAGA didn’t watch those hearings. Neither did Fox News broadcast them. So for all the good the January 6 Committee hearings did to convince independents and Democrats that Trump was complicit in the January 6 insurrection beyond a reasonable doubt, it reached only a tiny percentage of its true target audience: MAGA.
But now, pursuant to a court order, Donald Trump’s Georgia trial trial will be live-streamed on the Fulton County YouTube channel. It will be broadcast live on numerous television stations across the land. This time is going to be very different. This time Donald Trump will be there in person. He will be there to answer to the charges put before him, to mount a defence. He will have his chance to show the world why he’s as innocent as he claims to be, and MAGA will have no legitimate excuse not to watch it.
Indeed, if they don’t watch then they deserve our contemptuous refrain in demanding to know why. They must face our insistence that they explain to us exactly what they’re afraid of. If Trump is innocent and it’s “obvious” that he’s innocent then it should be simplicity itself to prove in a court of law. What’s the problem?
Donald Trump’s cult must watch — and many of them will. Millions of them will. If the prosecution is as effective as the January 6 Committee then many of them will be shocked and dismayed at how guilty Trump obviously is.
Now I am not so naive as not to know for a fact that many of the MAGA watchers will rationalise away what their eyes and ears tell them. With the help of Fox News, of course. But some of them will “get it.” Some of them will be shocked at how weak Trump’s defence is. Some of them will be dismayed and disappointed. For some the televised hearings will be a real game changer.
And that shock and dismay will translate into votes. I think many Republicans who previously voted for Trump and his MAGA acolytes will think twice about voting for them in the future. The Trump trial will have a more galvanising effect on Republicans than the Watergate hearings did. And MAGA will be all but forced to watch.
A good prosecutor will spoon feed the jury every damning detail of Donald Trump’s guilt. They will parade out every condemning Republican witness. They will cross-examine every defence witness and every defence expert with lacerating precision. By the time they are done, most people watching will conclude that Trump is guilty, that he was part of a vast conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. No reasonable person will be able to conclude otherwise.
If you doubt this then you must doubt that Trump will be found guilty. Because all of MAGA will be watching, and some of them will be serving on the jury. If you know Trump will be found guilty it’s because you have a justifiable belief in juries and their capacity to see what is right and to vote accordingly.
Yes, I think this televised trial is going to be a real game changer. I think it’s going to convince many MAGA Republicans of Trump’s wrongdoing. I think it will have the same effect the Watergate hearings had on most Americans. And this time MAGA will be forced to watch. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.