Two years of Jan. 6

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Two years of Jan. 6

TWO YEARS OF JAN. 6. It was obvious when the Capitol riot took place on Jan. 6, 2021, that its aftereffects would last for a long time. The prosecutions alone would be lengthy, and indeed, they are still underway and will be for the foreseeable future. Politically, from the beginning, one party, the Republicans, had an incentive to move on, while the other, the Democrats, had an incentive to dwell on Jan. 6 for as long as possible. And indeed, for the last two years, Republicans have sought to move on, while Democrats have sought to dwell on Jan. 6 for as long as possible.

Now, on the second anniversary of Jan. 6, there is a new poll about the public’s attitudes toward the events of that day and how they have reverberated ever since. The results show even as the event recedes into the past, there will be no moving on — at least not as long as Jan. 6 has political utility for one party.

The pollsters from Morning Consult-Politico asked some very basic questions. The first, trying to measure the lasting political impact of Jan. 6, was: “Thinking about the U.S. presidential election in November 2024, to what extent will the events of January 6th impact the way you vote?” Fifty-three percent of Democrats said it would have a major impact, and 23% said it would have a minor impact, for a total of 76%, while just 24% of Democrats said it would have no impact at all.

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Among Republicans, just 16% said Jan. 6 would have a major impact on their 2024 vote, while 19% said it would have a minor impact, for a total of 35%, while 6% said it would have no impact at all. And for independents, 30% said Jan. 6 would have a major impact, while 23% said it would have a minor impact, for a total of 53%, while 47% said it would have no impact at all.

When most Democrats say that Jan. 6 will have a major impact on their 2024 presidential vote — well, Democratic candidates and strategists will make sure those voters hear about Jan. 6 a lot. Democratic appeals will have much less effect on independents, but party strategists will make sure that the party’s primary voters hear a lot about Jan. 6.

The pollsters asked two other questions: “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: There has been too much focus on the January 6th events at the U.S. Capitol.” Then they asked whether respondents agreed or disagreed with the statement, “There has not been enough focus on the January 6th events at the U.S. Capitol.”

The answers followed the same partisan pattern. Only 24% of Democrats strongly or somewhat agreed with the idea that there has been too much focus on Jan. 6, while 73% of Republicans felt that way. For independents, 44% felt there has been too much focus on Jan. 6.

On the other hand, 62% of Democrats said there has not been enough focus on Jan. 6, while just 19% of Republicans said so. Among independents, 36% said there has not been enough focus, while 52% disagreed with the statement.

Finally, the pollsters asked, “Do you believe the criminal charges for those involved in the January 6th attack are too harsh, not harsh enough, or just about right?” A solid majority, 58%, of Democrats said the charges have not been harsh enough, while just 5% said they have been too harsh. Among Republicans, just 11% said the charges are not harsh enough, while 38% said they have been too harsh. Among independents, just 19% said the charges were too harsh, while 35% said they have not been harsh enough.

Put it together, and the shape of the public’s attitudes is pretty clear. Republicans and Democrats are on opposite sides of the Jan. 6 question, and independents are split right down the middle. It is hard to imagine a more perfectly partisan issue. As politics goes forward and the 2024 race begins in earnest, we are likely to see more of the same on Jan. 6: Republicans will seek to move on, Democrats will seek to exploit it politically, and independents will be divided. We are now entering Year 3 of Jan. 6. There will be more.

Meanwhile, the House Jan. 6 committee is out of business and, as predicted, did not release all of the information it gathered. In the days leading up to the Republican takeover of the House, the committee released transcripts of interviews with about 280 of the 1,000 witnesses it interviewed. Some large number of the 720 unreleased interviews were not transcribed, but the committee most certainly had notes from them, which were not released. Plus, the New York Times reported, “Lawmakers said they withheld certain transcripts that contained sensitive information.” What does “sensitive” mean? That was totally up to the committee’s discretion. Beyond that, the committee released a lot of the supporting information connected to footnotes in its final report. But that was all. If people thought the committee’s investigation would end in a burst of full transparency, they were mistaken.

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