We’ve been noting how not only the Big Lie but also the January 6th insurrection are likely to be at the center of the 2022 midterm election campaign, in large part because Donald Trump is insisting that it be so. As leader of the Republican party he can do that. Except for a two or three day period after the insurrection itself, Republicans have wanted to move on from, cover up or simply ignore what happened on January 6th. We’ve seen this in the almost unanimous resistance to impeaching and convicting the President over the event itself and resistance to any subsequent commissions or investigative committees. But as Trump moves back into public campaign mode, as I’ve noted, he’s pressing for much more: vindication and freedom for the insurrectionists and valorization of the purported ‘martyr’ Ashli Babbitt. We got a clear indication this morning of how some of the most eager candidates are falling into line.
To run for Senate in Ohio JD Vance is in the midst of an all-out rebrand, transforming himself from truth-telling conservative intellectual to arch-Trump-fanboy. In a new round of interviews this week he is surprisingly candid, on a close read, in explaining that he hasn’t so much changed his views of Trump as realized that Trumpism is effective and that that’s all that matters.
It’s the discussion of January 6th specifically that jumps out. Vance told Time’s Molly Ball that the January 6th insurrectionists were actually pretty good folks, basically misunderstood. “There were some bad apples on Jan. 6, very clearly, but most of the people there were actually super peaceful,” Vance told Ball. “Some of them were, like, let into the Capitol by the police officers!”
To be clear, he’s not saying that there are some “bad apples” among Trump supporters or “bad apples” among the kinds of Trump-flag-waving diehards who participated in the January 6th insurrection. He’s saying some “bad apples” among the actual people who stormed and ransacked the Capitol building.
Obviously there were gradations of behavior among those who stormed the building. Some were content to yell and mouth off. Others participated in vicious beatings of Capitol Police officers. Still others planned a focused military style assault in advance with coconspirators. Prosecutors have made these distinctions in their prosecutorial decisions. We don’t have to debate whether these individuals are going to heaven or whether they’re nice to their children or pets. But every single one who passed through threshold of the Capitol building participated in a violent assault on the seat of government with the intent of overturning the results of a free and fair election. In civic and political terms they are all, by definition, “bad apples”.
This is another piece of the puzzle. It’s part of the normalization of these events. These are the building blocks of the rehabilitation of the insurrectionists and the demand that they not face criminal consequences for their actions.
Again, this is going to be a centerpiece of the 2022 campaign.