If the January 6 Committee hearings demonstrate anything, they demonstrate that it’s people and not laws that stand between democracy and tyranny. Had there been enough people in Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court who shared the peculiar point of view that Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and lawyer John Eastman shared, Democracy might have taken a tumble on January 6, 2021.
Instead, Mike Pence refused to leave the Capitol, William Barr refused to acknowledge that the election was stolen and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien agreed with Barr. Even John Eastman had to confess that his own plan to get Mike Pence to subvert the election was unconstitutional. There were enough people like them to present a bulwark against Trump, or at least to slow him down. Will there be enough next time with an equally corrupt president?
With the continued radicalization of the Republican Party the situation is changing for the worse. Laws are only as good as the people who agree to uphold and enforce them. We have seen how, with effortless cynicism, the statutes and the laws of the land can sometimes be interpreted to mean whatever is expedient for Republicans. From Roe v. Wade to the Second Amendment to the right of peaceful assembly, more and more Republicans interpret America’s laws, precedent and traditions with shockingly partisan bias.
Rare Republican moderates like Adam Kinzinger are retiring and being replaced by radical misfits like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene. We were pleased when we learned that, during the insurrection, many Republicans did the right thing. We were thrilled by Liz Cheney’s powerful commentaries.Will that always be true? Will the dwindling number of decent Republicans fade and disappear forever until nothing remains but the radicals?
Perhaps the most important takeaway of the third public hearing of the January 6 Committee was that Donald Trump was told repeatedly by different people that his plan for Pence to overturn the election on January 6 was illegal, but he tried to do it anyway. This suggests that Trump was acting to a corrupt purpose and he knew exactly what he was doing. Trump’s difficulty in executing his plan wasn’t due so much to the law as it was to the people unwilling to go along with him. At what point would he have had enough to pull it off? Would it have been enough to pull it off if 60% of the people around him were as corrupt as, say, Marjorie Taylor Greene?
Let us hope we never find out. If anything, the January 6 Committee hearings serve as a cautionary tale of what could happen if one day everyone around the president is as corrupt as Trump is. 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.