Do you think our problems with anti-democracy and right-wing extremism are over? If your answer is yes, please think again. We may be in a bit of the “calm before the storm” if a more aggressive effort isn’t made to determine why the January 6 Trump insurrection occurred.
I was disturbed to read in yesterday’s paper that two people were arrested at the White House. One, after being stopped by guards, confessed to carrying a BB gun. Upon investigation, a pistol and ammunition were found in a nearby car. Both are under arrest. Were they conducting some sort of reconnaissance mission to see if they would be stopped? What were they planning?
More disturbing than what has been in the paper is what has not. Where are the details about the role of the “Oath Keepers” in reportedly orchestrating the January 6 Trump insurrection? Were they in touch with the White House? How did the rally get scheduled so the attendees would arrive at the Capitol at “just the right minute?” Were the Oath Keepers closely coordinating with the Proud Boys?
And what about stories of members of Congress coordinating with the insurrectionists? Did some rioters get “reconnaissance tours” a day or two before the riot? And why did Josh Hawley, the right-wing senator from Missouri, hold up a fist when he passed the mob on his way into the Capitol?
These are questions that demand answers. But there is more. Press reports suggest that many who came to Washington for the insurrection are in economic duress. Many have filed for bankruptcy or are unemployed. Who paid them to come to Washington? What was their understanding about what they would be doing once they got there? Did the insurrectionists kiss their loved ones goodbye and say, “Goodbye, honey. I’m going to Washington to kill Nancy Pelosi and hang Mike Pence. I’ll be back in a few days. You can watch me on TV if you’d like.”
Somebody financed at least some of the rioters’ presence in Washington. Somebody, it is virtually certain, coordinated the planned march on the Capitol with the President’s men (and women). After all, Trump specifically referenced the march in his speech. (He also told attendees that he would be joining them, but that was a lie.)
All this brings us to the issue of what to do about our lack of knowledge about what really happened on January 6 and in the days that led up to it. Do we let a sleeping dog lie and assume that with Trump out of the White House (finally!) we can all relax? Or do we face the reality that Trumpism and whatever bizarre pattern of thinking led the mob to go to the Capitol are not yet behind us?
A solution to this problem is for Congress to authorize a commission on the events of January 6. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed such a commission to “investigate and report on the facts and causes, relating to the January 6, 2021 domestic terrorist attack upon the United States Capitol Complex . . .and relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capital Police and other Federal, state, and local law enforcement in the National Capital Region.”
The commission would be patterned after the one established following the attacks of September 11, 2001. That report was written by a bipartisan group of investigators (five Democrats and five Republicans) and took roughly 20 months to write. It is 585 pages long. And it is widely credited with resolving many unanswered questions initially raised about why the 9/11 attacks had taken place and who was behind them.
A commission report on 1/6 will not solve the underlying problems that led to a group of Americans attacking their own Capitol, but it could help us further understand the dangers involved in right-wing extremism. I don’t know what motivates the “Oath Takers,” but I’d take an oath myself that it isn’t something good.
If we, as a nation, do not get to the bottom of 1/6, we risk this history repeating itself.
Sadly, I don’t expect our Congressman, Andy “Handgun” Harris, to support creating the commission. As of this writing, he had not yet reacted. His most recent press releases complain about President Biden attempting to turn the Coast Guard into the “mask police for a low-transmission industry (watermen)” and express alarm over a Congressional Budget Office report on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.