We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

January 6th 2021, DC Capitol riot, last minutes of standoff. Police heavily using tear gas & pushing protesters out of US Capitol Building, USA Alamy Stock Photo

Larry Donnelly Will the January 6th hearings, or anything else, help Democrats?

Our columnist looks at the aftermath of the Capitol attack and the findings of the select committee and asks what it means for the next election.

JANUARY 6, 2021 was a bleak day for the United States. The memories of what I watched transpire in Washington, DC from 3,000 miles away will stay with me as long as I live. It was not just an attack on a physical edifice; it was an assault upon the ideals that Americans are taught to hold dear.

One of these always stood out: that ours is an exemplary democracy which is a beacon to the rest of the world. For countless millions at home and abroad who bore witness that Wednesday to the repulsive actions of an unruly mob, this central tenet of the civic religion in the land of my birth has become a shibboleth.

In the immediate aftermath, there were cries for investigations in order to get to the bottom of how and why the previously unfathomable came to pass in the halls of the US Congress. His staunch foes, naturally, together with more than a few of his erstwhile friends, asserted that the objectively un-presidential conduct of Donald Trump – whipping fervent adherents into a frenzy at a boisterous rally prior to their ransacking the Capitol Building – demanded a comprehensive interrogation.


Hence the formation of a select committee in the US House of Representatives to gather evidence and present findings regarding the happenings on January 6th. An effort to establish a bipartisan commission was torpedoed by Trump allies in the US Senate and only two House Republicans dissented from their colleagues and took seats on the committee. They were consequently censured.

Notably, both are soon likely to be ex-congressmen: Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is not seeking re-election and Liz Cheney is trailing badly against a challenger who is championed by prominent GOP leaders in her native Wyoming, including the party chair who has declared that he would “go through barbed wire” for Donald Trump.

This summer, in televised prime-time hearings, the select committee has been revealing what it has unearthed. Notwithstanding the attempts of Trump and his acolytes to dismiss them, there have been startling revelations and disturbing details added to information that was already in the public domain. Perhaps most troubling are the extent to which Trump turned on his theretofore loyal vice-president, Mike Pence, and then how close to harm’s way Pence indeed was.

This process of discovery and truth-telling has been necessary, albeit unpleasant. Despite the hopes of Democrats, however, the hearings do not appear as if they will have any discernible effect on November’s midterm elections. The hearings are accessible on a multiplicity of platforms, yet the first one was taken in by a meagre 20 million Americans and the numbers have been falling steadily since. Polling data shows that only half of the citizenry approves of the select committee.

Waste of time?

Cynics can be forgiven for positing that this is a pointless exercise in a divided country where people are far more concerned with the skyrocketing price of gas and groceries than with what is to lots of them old, comparatively irrelevant news.

That said, my suspicion is that the history books will be kind to the select committee. Putting politics to one side for a second, January 6th – the nadir of the malaise that has afflicted American society for too long – warranted this inquiry.

And speaking politically again, a crucial figure emerges from the polling that those on the left who dread the notion of Trump returning to the White House above all else will derive solace from. When questioned in a survey after the hearings began, approximately 60% of Americans agreed that Donald Trump should be charged with a crime – an improbable eventuality – for what they see as his role in the insurrection at the Capitol Building.

That large cohort surely consists of some women and men who cast ballots for him in 2016 and/or 2020. This strongly suggests to me that the path back to power for the 45th president is an exceedingly narrow one.

The fact is that the relatively small grouping of uncommitted, non-ideological, casual voters whose preferences oscillate and who decide the outcome of tight elections in the US has had enough of Trump. Nonetheless, he retains a degree of fidelity from the Republican grassroots that will render it extremely difficult to stop him from garnering the nomination, should he choose to pursue it.

The brash New Yorker will delight in keeping us guessing on this front for the next while. If he decides to make a third bid for the presidency, though, many conservatives publicly affiliated with him will fret behind the scenes. Democrats, on the other hand, may have cause for cautious optimism in the shape of a useful bogeyman.

Challenges ahead

At the moment, there is nearly nothing for them to cheer about. As inflation soars, fears about the stock market mount and speculation as to an impending recession continues, a mere 39% of Americans think President Joe Biden is doing a good job. Republicans at this juncture appear set to do very well in the midterms and to retake both houses of Congress.

Much has been made of the potential for the horrific mass shooting in Uvalde and the now confirmed reversal of Roe v Wade to galvanise Democrats, boost turnout and mitigate the damage that midterms typically inflict on the incumbent president’s party, but these seem to be having as little cumulative impact on the political state of play as the January 6th hearings.

Further, more chapters are being written in what is simultaneously the most important and most ignored developing political story in the US in 2022: the rightward drift of the Latino community. In one Texas district, Henry Cuellar, a moderate and the final avowedly anti-abortion Democrat in the US House, fended off an insurgency from a liberal Latina American, Jessica Cisneros, who was supported by a national coalition of progressive politicians, organisations and celebrity donors.

And in another Texas district that is also identified as heavily Latino, a Latina American Republican, Mayra Flores, cruised to a special election triumph in an area where Democrats have dominated for decades. Her top three, overarching legislative priorities, as listed on her campaign website: “Pro-God, Pro-Life and Pro-Family.”

It is not alone working class whites who are increasingly disenchanted with the Democrats’ lurch to the cultural left; they have been joined by a key, rapidly growing bloc of Latino voters. Many Asian Americans are trending in a similar direction.

For my party, matters could get considerably worse before they get any better.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston lawyer, a law lecturer at NUI Galway and a political columnist with The Journal. His book – “The Bostonian: Life in an Irish American Political Family” – is published by Gill and available online and in bookshops.


Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel