Here’s the problem, and it’s foreboding: If a line is crossed, and the occasion passes unacknowledged, was there really a line? All these months after the attack, the seemingly bare-minimum response has not happened: There has been no full-throated group statement from the congressional bully pulpit stating that the attack was out of bounds, no strong, clear line in the sand naming the events of Jan. 6 an unforgivable assault on the democratic processes and principles of our government that must never happen again. This astounding omission could prove fatal.
Many Republicans have been doing the precise opposite of acknowledging a crossed line. They deny the attack’s importance (“You would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” was how Rep. Andrew S. Clyde characterized some of the footage), dismiss the need for an investigation (“Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections,” Sen. John Thune said, is “a day lost”) and stab at the probe’s credibility (“This is a sham committee,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who may be the speaker by Jan. 6, 2023, said of the bipartisan House panel). Even moderate Republicans have joined that chorus; on ABC’s “The View” in October, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said she agreed with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that it was “time to move on.”
New metal detectors in the Capitol — one of the few lasting additional protective measures — have met Republican resistance. Right-wing pundits have claimed that the Capitol Police officers who tearfully testified before the select committee this past July were “crisis actors” playing for effect. Some, including Trump himself, have transformed insurgent Ashli Babbitt, killed by law enforcement while trying to climb through a broken window inside the Capitol, into a martyred patriot. In the Senate, Republicans voted down the mere discussion of an investigation.
The message is clear: There’s no reason to get upset. The day’s events were unremarkable, perhaps even praiseworthy. Nothing more need be done.