Over the past two weeks, millions of Americans have tuned in to an unlikely reality TV hit: the broadcast hearings of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. . After years of nurturing former President Donald Trump’s constant need for media attention, the Republican Party may be screwed by the same thing it’s become addicted to: huge television ratings.
More than 20 million viewers tuned in to the first week of committee hearings, a whopping number for House committee business and nearly a million more than tuned in to the series finale “Game of Thrones”. And although the ratings are down slightly from the first blockbuster session, the committee is still releasing numbers that would guarantee renewal for any network television show.
There are already signs that public opinion is shifting and Democrats have policy openings. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans now think Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in instigating the Jan. 6 attack.
Thursday’s hearings — featuring a host of Trump Justice Department officials, including former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen — offered even more alarming insights, including Trump’s demand that officials in the DOJ’ just say [the 2020] the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican members of Congress.
Already, American voters have heard shocking details about how Trump, his top aides, and senior White House officials were far more complicit in the attack on the U.S. Capitol than many Americans probably realized. Those hearings, which Jan. 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D.-Miss., now says will stretch into July, have all the makings of a political nightmare for the GOP.
More importantly, Republicans are facing a mountain of physical evidence, including damning text messages and email chains, showing senior White House officials pressuring congressional Republicans to nullify the election of 2020. It’s far more impactful than the soundbites describing this activity by Democrats and Biden administration officials, whose words can be more easily dismissed by skeptics.
Then there’s direct testimony from respected Republican officials such as former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, who described Trump as being at a “war” with democracy, or the Vice-President’s White House attorney. President Mike Pence, Greg Jacob, who shared emails detailing the White House’s attempt to blame Pence for the attack.
Although many Americans remain oblivious to these revelations, the political landscape has now changed: voters are once again focusing on the chaotic events of January 6. The GOP is being forced to go on the defensive in front of a massive national audience just as the party weathered a deadly primary season that saw multiple bitter fights between pro and anti-Trump factions of the GOP.
The GOP’s Jan. 6 committee woes are a rare opportunity for Democrats to hammer Republicans on an issue for which they simply don’t have good answers. If President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats don’t seize this moment to hold Republicans politically accountable for the failed coup, they should pack their bags and save Americans the trouble of returning Congress to Republican control in November.
There are already signs that public opinion is shifting and Democrats have policy openings. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans now think Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in instigating the Jan. 6 attack, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted over the weekend. That’s a big jump from January, when an Economist/YouGov poll found just 41% of Americans think Trump should be fired on criminal charges.
This shift also comes as significant pockets of Americans are still undecided about the events of Jan. 6 — and by definition persuasive. An Economist/YouGov poll released after the first two weeks of hearings found that more than half of Americans think the Jan. 6 attack was an insurrection, with an additional 18% of those polled saying they weren’t all just not sure. What think. In a midterm election cycle where control of Congress rests uncomfortably on a very thin margin, these undecided voters represent a political lifeline for Democrats.
These numbers no doubt reflect that Americans are viewing the January 6 committee hearings. ABC News streamed the hearings live on its TikTok account, tapping into the de facto public forum for young people and political activists. On MSNBC, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone even noted that ratings headlines dominate social media. This was even true on Facebook, where right-wing content has a stranglehold on the social network’s content promotion algorithm.
Republicans are doing their best to downplay made-for-TV moments like the revelation that a supposedly drunk Rudy Giuliani gave Trump the basis for what would become the “big lie” that the 2020 election was fraudulent ( Giuliani denies that he had been drinking). But GOP attempts to downplay the hearings are failing, especially in the face of moments like the searing testimony of Georgia investigators Wandrea “Shay” Moss and Ruby Freeman, who described how Trump’s campaign lies cost them their jobs, led to death threats and still affects their daily lives.
The heartbreaking and heartbreaking testimonies of Moss and Freeman became a media sensation, trending on twitter and ensure headline coverage in mainstream media. Republican efforts to portray the hearing as empty theatrics…did not. Democrats would be wise to follow the public’s lead in ensuring that powerful stories like those of Moss and Freeman stay in front of voters through November.
The irony is that Republicans are no strangers to using live congressional hearings as major media events. That was certainly their plan in 2015, when then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy bragged about turning GOP hearings in Benghazi into a potent media weapon against the Democratic presidential candidate. the Hillary Clinton presidency.
“Everyone thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy told Fox News anchor Sean Hannity in September 2015. “But we have set up a special committee for Benghazi. A select committee. What are its numbers today? His numbers are dropping. Why? Because she is unreliable. But no one would have known all of this happened if we hadn’t fought to make it happen.
After prolonging the Benghazi investigation for two years and more than 30 hearings, he ended up producing no new evidence implicating Clinton in wrongdoing. But that didn’t matter: The investigation and hearings weighed on Clinton’s public image throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Now the Democrats hold a majority in the House, and they have some something McCarthy and the GOP have never done: a real, provable case of wrongdoing.
The Jan. 6 committee makes a compelling case that many top Republicans were deeply involved in the events that became the Capitol insurrection. Democrats now have a clear moral and civic responsibility to ensure that as many Americans as possible not only see the highlights of these explosive hearings, but fully understand why Republicans cannot be trusted to govern our democracy. .