We tragically fool ourselves if we believe that the televised hearings of the January 6 committee will change the Republican party or end Trump’s attempted coup.
The Republican party is becoming ever more divorced from reality, and Trump’s attempted coup continues unabated.
The first four hearings of the committee have demolished the myths of voter fraud repeated incessantly by Trump.
Yet the Republican response to those hearings has ranged from indifference to hostility. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the House, tweeted that the members of the committee “will not stop lying about their political opponents,” and called the committee “despicable.”
On Friday, speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Nashville, Trump repeated his Big Lie – as if the hearings never happened.
The lie is now deeply entrenched in the Republican party that it has become a central tenet of Republican dogma.
It is now the vehicle by which Republican candidates signal their fealty both to Trump and to a broad range of grievances (some imaginary, some derived from the so-called “culture wars”) that now constitute the Republican brand.
So far, at least 108 Republican candidates who embrace the Big Lie have won their nominations or advanced to runoffs, and there is no sign that the hearings have reduced the intensity of their demagoguery.
Republican voters have chosen eight Big Liers for the US Senate, 86 for the House, five for governor, four for state attorney general and one for secretary of state.
These Big Lie candidates feel no pressure to respond to the findings of the committee because their districts or states already lean Republican, and most voters in them have dismissed or aren’t paying attention to the committee hearings.
Recall that the 2020 election was mainly about Trump – you were either for him or against him. Voters in districts and states that voted largely for him won’t easily change their minds.
The cognitive dissonance required to shift from believing Trump’s Big Lie to accepting the reality of what occurred is simply too formidable. In addition, few of their sources of news — Fox News, rightwing radio, and rightwing social media — have questioned the Big Lie.
An even more troubling reality is that because these districts or states lean Republican, these Big Lie candidates are likely to win the offices they are seeking. In an open primary in a safely Republican Georgia district, for example, all nine candidates questioned the 2020 result.
Many of these Republican Big Lie candidates will hold positions with the power to interfere in the outcomes of future elections — to block the certification of election results, change the rules around the awarding of their states’ electoral votes or to acquiesce to litigation attempting to set aside the popular vote.
Meanwhile, Republican party’s biggest backers — such as billionaire Peter Thiel, who has donated tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of Big Lie candidates JD Vance and Blake Masters — show no sign of reducing their backing in light of the committee’s findings.
Big corporations continue to write fat checks to Big Lie candidates. In April alone (the last month for which data is available) Fortune 500 companies and trade organizations gave more than $1.4m to members of Congress who voted not to certify the election results, according to an analysis by the transparency group Accountable.US. AT&T led the pack, giving $95,000 to election objectors.
Money from corporations like Boeing, Koch Industries, Home Depot, FedEx, UPS and General Dynamics continues to flow to politicians who reject the 2020 election results based on the Big Lie, according to a tally kept by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known as Crew.
In his closing statement before the January 6 committee, former US appellate court judge J Michael Luttig — one of the most conservative judges in the federal system, whom George W Bush passed over for the supreme court because Bush thought him too conservative — called Trump and his allies and supporters “a clear and present danger to American Democracy.”
By not divesting itself of the Big Lie and embracing the truth of what the January 6 committee is revealing, the Republican party has lost its last shred of moral authority to function as one of America’s two governing parties.
Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a Guardian US columnist. His newsletter is at robertreich.substack.com