On Thursday, the January 6th Committee made a move that the doomsday pundits insisted would never happen: they subpoenaed five House Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and aborted January 6th Committee member Jim Jordan.
Already, the doomsday pundits are moving the goal posts. They’re now insisting that it’s “too late” for the subpoenas to matter, and that the committee will be “too cowardly” to enforce the subpoenas. But these pundits have no clue how political strategy works.
The upcoming January 6th public hearings are all about convincing average Americans in the middle that Trump and his Republican Party criminally conspired to overthrow the 2020 election. House Republicans’ refusal to comply with these subpoenas is the entire point. It makes them look guilty in the eyes of average Americans tuning in for the hearings. It convinces those average Americans that the Republican Party is corrupt and has something to hide and can’t be trusted, and therefore should be voted against in November.
This is a basic, obvious strategy – and yet sneaky in its simplicity. These House Republicans were never going to comply with these subpoenas. Nor were the courts going to order them to comply in time for the public hearings – not even if they’d been issued on day one. For that matter, the committee doesn’t necessarily want them “complying” anyway. If Jim Jordan was blocked from being a committee member because his lie-filled ranting would have distracted from the proceedings, then what would be the point of letting him spew lie-filled rants as a witness?
This is a brilliant move. The committee subpoenaed them late enough in the process that their non-compliance will still be a fresh story when the public hearings begin in a few weeks. The refusal of these five House Republicans to cooperate with the investigation will resonate with voters, and is a clever piece of midterm messaging.
Unfortunately, MSNBC and Twitter alike are dominated by pundits and activists who either can’t grasp this kind of basic political strategy, or are intentionally playing dumb so they can pander to audiences by raging about how the Democrats are “cowards” or “weak on messaging” or whatever their buzz phrase is on any given week.
But back in the real world, this is a smart move. As for the question of whether the committee will make criminal contempt referrals against these five House Republicans, who cares? If the DOJ is doing its job in relation to January 6th, and there are increasingly strong signals that it is indeed doing precisely that, then the likes of Jim Jordan will have far bigger criminal liability to worry about than a mere contempt charge. But again, we have a pundit class that either doesn’t understand these things, or pretends not to for effect.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report