5/29/21

Despite the majority of the Senate voting 54-to-35 in favor of establishing a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th assault on the Capitol, the Senate rules overrode the will of the majority. In so doing, the Senate kiboshed the effort to better understand how this fiasco became a reality and what we might be able to do to avoid its recurrence.

I have to admit to being somewhat ambivalent about the outcome of this vote. I’m ambivalent because I feel like we shouldn’t need a bipartisan commission… but we do!

On one hand, given the partisan divide in this country, having a bipartisan assessment as to what happened and why might be expected to shift the needle and (hopefully) move us closer to a more unified view of our history; but on the other hand, what are we going to learn that we don’t already know? Is there anyone out there who seriously doubts how this attack came about or who should be held accountable? Also, is there any question as to appropriate prophylactic measures that should be adopted to safeguard our democracy from a repeat of a similar heinous performance by another unhinged, violent mob?

For those who haven’t been able to connect the dots, let me spell it out for you: Donald Trump and his enablers were responsible. They perpetuated the big lie that Trump won the election, attributing the plurality of votes for Biden to voter fraud and a system of voting that couldn’t be relied upon. If we don’t want a replay of this baseless disregard of election results with recurring episodes of post-election violent attacks, the perpetrators of these lies need to be publicly repudiated.

Our democracy is in a state of vulnerability due to Trump’s lies; and failure to support a bipartisan commission to investigate and report to America on these issues serves only to preserve this deplorable status quo. How is that okay? The only way to disinfect this virus is to expose it to the light of reason. Sweeping it under the rug is unacceptable. We need a truth commission, with the coincident commitment to call out those who fail to embrace the truth as the dangers to our republic that they are. Presumably, that’s what this bipartisan commission would have done. Without it, ongoing cynicism relating to election results and reprises of violent attacks seem all but inevitable.

Whatever political differences that exist between Republicans and Democrats in any other realm of policy notwithstanding, when it comes to protecting our democracy, you’d think that the two parties could recognize the common good and act accordingly. Instead, we have a Republican party that is cravenly putting party over country. We might like to hope that our political leaders are better than that, but under the current Republican leadership, that hope seems more and more like an unachievable dream. It’s time for reasonable, patriotic Republicans to demand better from their leaders. Our future depends on it.

Kawaller holds a Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University.