In the wake of something as traumatic as a full-fledged assault on the nation’s political hub, it’s understandable that one might need to hit “pause” on consumption of that kind of content. Now, though, it’s becoming too easy to retroactively dismiss it. This forgetfulness obscures what the attack really was: the natural conclusion of a political climate that enables or actively promotes white supremacy at seemingly every turn.
The trauma that the politicians, staffers, journalists, photographers, and other people who witnessed the January 6th attack are now living with is very real. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been particularly open about the toll that day took on her, telling Instagram Live viewers, “I thought I was going to die…I have never been quieter in my entire life.”
“I don’t see how you can watch any of this and listen to their presentation and not conclude that Trump bears tremendous responsibility for what happened,” Sen. Mazie Hirono told reporters on Wednesday after watching the new footage of the Capitol insurrection.
Nonetheless, Trump is highly unlikely to be convicted as a result of these impeachment hearings. For that to happen, 17 Republican senators would have to vote against their GOP colleagues (and join all 50 Democrats). The ultimate lack of likely consequence can give the hearings a vapid feel—are the moving arguments of Raskin, who called the 2020 siege of the Michigan statehouse a “preview of the coming insurrection”, and the stirring statements of Rep. Stacey Plasket, who has made history as the first nonvoting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives to serve as an impeachment manager, all just for show?
That, of course, is probably what the Republicans who would like to sweep this behavior under the rug would like us to feel. This is why it’s all the more important to keep our focus squarely on the shocking actions of the unruly mob who stormed the Capitol. Trump certainly bears responsibility for what took place on January 6, but we can’t allow our collective understanding of what it means to foster a culture of white supremacy fade with his near-certain acquittal. As hard as it might be, we have to force ourselves to reckon with this now-fundamental piece of our country’s history, or else risk repeating it.