A predictable outcome of Jan. 6 hearings: Opinions about Trump won’t change
Whenever a divisive issue comes along, there’s one thing we can be sure of: The opposing sides will go to their respective corners and erect barricades so that no inconvenient facts or opinions can get through. It’s the case with guns or abortion, or now, with the House hearings on what happened and who’s responsible for the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
To hard-core Donald Trump supporters, the hearings are nothing more than a show trial, a TV miniseries, whose goal is to divert attention from almost 9 percent inflation and over $5 a gallon gasoline. It’s all about politics, as far as they’re concerned. It’s about not allowing cross-examination from Republicans who support Trump, and about smearing not only the former president but all Republicans — hoping the TV show, produced by a former ABC News president, will change enough minds to help Democrats in the November midterms.
To liberals and progressives, the hearings are about how then-President Trump tried to overturn the 2020 election with lies about stolen votes and supposedly rigged voting machines. Before the hearings are over, the left hopes the committee will show that Trump is guilty of nothing less than “seditious conspiracy” and will be put on trial, convicted and go to prison.
The question now is, will the hearings make any discernible difference in the way Americans think or the way they vote?
It’s a safe bet that hard-core Democrats will come out of the hearings with the same opinions they had when they went in — that Donald Trump tried to stage a coup and overthrow a legitimate presidential election. As for hard-core Republicans, no matter how damning the evidence and testimony against Trump, they won’t be swayed. As I say, both sides predictably rush to their corners and put up walls to keep the other side out.
But not everyone is hard core when it comes to politics. There still are swing voters out there, moderates who vote Republican sometimes and Democrat at other times. What they see on TV may influence how they vote. They’re up for grabs.
One of the conservative arguments is that the hearings aren’t producing anything new. Except not everybody is a news junkie. Not everybody knows every detail of what happened on Jan. 6. Some who tune in to the hearings will learn things they didn’t know.
But here’s what we do know, even if Trump loyalists don’t want to believe it: Donald Trump lied to his supporters for months, telling them that the election was “stolen,” even though, as the hearings have shown, his own attorney general, Bill Barr — and many other top Trump aides and advisers — said there was no evidence for such an assertion.
We also know that he invited his supporters to Washington for the rally on Jan. 6 and then egged them on with more lies about a stolen election. We know that after they stormed the Capitol, Trump watched on television but didn’t send help to put an end to the riot.
We know that he bears some responsibility for what happened that day — moral, ethical and political responsibility. But we don’t know if he bears legal responsibility. Before this is over, we’ll find out.
How Donald Trump commands such loyalty — from people he has constantly misled, no less — is, well, let’s call it … fascinating. For quite a while now they’ve been looking for their political messiah. Trump came along and said, “Here I am.”
So, should it really surprise us that a poll completed last week, one day before the primetime TV hearing began, found that 55 percent of Republicans still believe the fairy tale that it actually was left-wing protesters who led the Jan. 6 riot — just to make Trump look bad. Never mind that virtually (if not literally) all of the more than 800 people arrested after they stormed the Capitol weren’t left-wingers at all, but, according to federal prosecutors, were Trump supporters. True believers are rarely deterred by mere facts.
Imagine how much they must loathe Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the rest of the liberal and progressive gang to believe such nonsense and embrace a man with Donald Trump’s personality.
Last week, he went on his new social media platform, Truth Social, and told his loyal followers that “January 6th was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again.”
Trump deceived his loyal followers when he lost the presidential election. He continued the deception at the rally on Jan. 6, 2021. If his post on Truth Social is any indication, he still is cynically playing on their blind allegiance to him.
Maybe that’s because Donald Trump knows what Abe Lincoln knew: That you really can fool some people all of the time.
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.