Why Can't Donald Trump Move On From Jan. 6?
So much for turning the page.
In the months and years following the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, a question often asked aloud by frustrated Trump supporters was “Why can’t Liz Cheney move on?” The phrase (and variations of it) was all over social media, right-wing media broadcasts, and even the halls of Congress, echoed by Cheney’s Republican colleagues. It was a complaint about her tenacity in telling the politically-inconvenient truth about, and seeking accountability for, Donald Trump’s role in that day’s violence.
Things didn’t start out that way. In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, a lot of congressional Republicans actually sounded quite a bit like Cheney, openly pinning responsibility for what had happened — at least in part — on Donald Trump. But as the days and weeks went on, and it became clear that Republican voters would punish any GOP representative who didn’t gloss over the event (or at least find ways to place blame for it on the other side), Cheney found herself standing almost alone.
Nearly all of her party wanted her and a handful of other Republican dissenters to just shut up about January 6, and join them in re-pledging servility to the former president. But she wouldn’t, believing the stakes for the country were too high.
Cheney voted to impeach Trump, continued to condemn him for his actions, and co-led the Jan. 6 Committee’s investigation into that day and the events leading up to it. Telling the truth and standing up for the Constitution, in the face of partisan interests, made her an outcast. Republican leaders censured her (at both the state and national level), stripped her of her conference chair, and backed a primary challenger in Wyoming to successfully eject her from office.
If only Cheney had “moved on” from January 6. If only she had stopped talking (and generating headlines) about that day… as her fellow Republicans had demanded. If only she had put her party first.
The January 6 Committee is now over. Its members wrapped up their work last year. Cheney’s been gone from public service for almost three months, along with all but two of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. She recently took a professor of practice job at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. She doesn’t weigh in on January 6 much anymore, at least not on a national platform.
It seemed, the GOP having successfully purged nearly every party leader willing to draw attention to that day, that Republicans could finally — collectively — “move on.”
But that’s not what has happened. There’s a top-level Republican leader who stubbornly won’t stop talking about January 6. The guy just doesn’t want to “move on” from day, and he has even gone as far as making it part of his 2024 presidential campaign.
I’m talking, of course, about Donald J. Trump.
Below is a clip from last weekend’s rally in Waco, Texas, where Trump placed his hand over his heart and led supporters in a partial singing of our national anthem. I say “partial” because some of the anthem was cut out and replaced with Trump’s own words, while a large screen above showed footage of January 6 rioters assaulting Capitol police officers.
It was quite a show of respect — not for the officers, but rather the insurrectionists.
As described above, those singing voices you hear over the speakers belong to the “January 6 Prison Choir”, a group of inmates currently serving time for their roles in the attack. A couple weeks ago, the recording was released for purchase online, where it reached number one on the download charts.
Far from the letting that day fade from memory, the Republican party — or at least its leader — has turned some of the worst January 6 violators into a successful music act. It’s like The Super Bowl Shuffle, but with convicts instead of professional athletes.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Trump has romanticized the plight of those who rioted at the Capitol. He’s been doing it literally since the day it happened, and just a few months ago, he said he would “very, very seriously” consider issuing presidential pardons for them. Heck, Trump still refers to these folks as “patriots,” and others in the MAGA-verse have followed suit.
Trump’s not the only top-tier Republican leader focused on keeping the nation talking about January 6. Just a few weeks ago, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he had granted Fox News host Tucker Carlson exclusive access to about 44,000 hours of that day’s security footage from the U.S. Capitol.
Yes, we’re talking about the same Kevin McCarthy who used to look like he was about to clench his heart and stagger around like Redd Foxx whenever Liz Cheney would talk about that day. McCarthy obviously knew that handing over the footage to a top-rated media-propagandist would launch the topic back to the forefront of our national discourse, but he did it anyway. And considering that McCarthy still does very little politically without Donald Trump’s blessing, the former president not only assuredly signed off on and encouraged the stunt, but was also eagerly awaiting another opportunity to weigh back in on January 6.
I don’t get it. Why can’t Donald Trump move on from January 6? Why can’t Kevin McCarthy move on from it, after leading efforts to oust Cheney for not moving on from it? It’s like these guys are… obsessed. And oddly, this time, few in the Republican base and right-wing media seem to mind.
Wasn’t the entire point to look forward rather than backward? For Republicans to close this embarrassing chapter in U.S. history, and move on to “more important” things, like winning elections, restoring our culture, and achieving victories for the American people?
I guess not. Long live January 6!