Tonight, the House select committee tasked with investigating the Capitol riot of January 6, 2021, are mounting their first public hearing after interviewing a thousand witnesses and reviewing a hundred times as many documents. They have promised that the prime-time television event — and more in a series to follow — will change the course of history, establishing without a doubt that the insurrection was an organized attack on democracy itself.
For many, that’s an obvious, accepted truth. The MAGA mob’s actions that day were so thoroughly documented, live-streamed, corroborated and openly confessed that stonewalling denial and conspiracy theories are only ways to avoid this conclusion. Meanwhile, more than 800 have been arrested in connection with the plot, with upward of 300 pleading guilty so far. The slow-mo prosecution of these crimes was evident in today’s high-profile arrest of Michigan gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley, charged with four misdemeanors for his role — a year and a half after tipsters identified him at the scene, with an FBI source confirming his presence.
The crawling tedium of legal procedure has left Democrats impatient despite the volume of cases, and hungry for spectacle. Some hope to see multiple extremist members of congress handcuffed in one fell swoop. Predicting that Donald Trump would go to prison was common habit for the #Resistance crowd during his term in the White House, but after the letdowns of the Mueller report and two impeachment trials, liberals want a cinematic display of comeuppance.
There’s a curious parallel here to what the far-right QAnon cult calls “The Storm” — the long-promised, sudden, sweeping arrests of every high-ranking Democrat for treason, sex trafficking and Satanic magic. In fact, the Q movement was well-represented at the Capitol assault because its adherents believed, with Trump’s incitement to disrupt the certification of his election loss, that the Storm was upon them that very afternoon, heralding the punishment of their enemies. (Denied such an outcome, they have since resumed hoping and praying for this moment of summary judgment.) Now the shoe is on the other foot: a New York civil investigation into Trump’s company is heating up, the January 6th committee is hyping up its unreleased findings, and Democrats desperately want to have law-flouting Republicans rounded up en masse.
Which isn’t to say they’re not aware of their wishful thinking. In a Reddit thread on the subject of Kelley’s arrest, after speculation that elected officials could be detained next, one realist asked, “Are we the Q nuts now?” Actual trials notwithstanding, it’s a reasonable sort of hesitation.
Although it may be cynicism on my part, I suspect the libs are headed for another disappointment. Past experience predicts as much, and the Democratic Party has sold the upcoming hearings — not coordinated raids on their fellow lawmakers’ homes — as the final answer to the attempted coup. Henchmen like former Trump adviser Peter Navarro are bound to get picked off here and there, yet the Storm won’t come for either side. It’s just one more symptom of American polarization: The need to anticipate total revenge on the enemy, achieved through superhuman patience and complete trust in your overlords.
Trouble is, when the leadership knows you’re happy to keep waiting and dreaming, they have no reason to act.