Trump’s anger shows that the January 6th hearings are hurting him

Congressional hearings are generally a confused mess, especially when they deal with issues on which there are strong partisan feelings. This is because there are a large number of people on the panel and, being politicians, they tend to make speeches to impress their base back home rather than ask questions that might elicit information or clarify issues. Furthermore, those who want to confuse the matter can introduce red herrings, filibuster, engage in endless repetition, raise points of order that are not points of order, and in so many ways sow confusion.

The current hearings into the events of January 6th are remarkably different. They have put out a clear timeline of events, interweaving live testimony with pre-recorded ones and supplementing those with documents and other forms of evidence. This is because each day’s questioning is largely led by a single designated person and they clearly had carefully planned goals in mind for each session. The hearings are playing out like a TV mini-series, including cliff-hangers for the episodes to come.

It is becoming clear that Republican leader Kevin McCarthy made a bad miscalculation when, in a huff, he said that he had told his Republican colleagues not to serve on the panel. This was after Speaker Nancy Pelosi had objected to two of his five picks, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana, whom she considered to be strong supporters of the Big Lie and who had both objected to the certification of the electors. Jordan in particular was closely involved with fomenting the insurrection and is one of the people who sought a preemptive pardon from Trump. He is also a master of disrupting proceedings in the ways outlined above. McCarthy must have thought his boycott was a stroke of genius on his part because he could then claim that the hearing were an entirely Democratic partisan affair, and that this would undermine the credibility of the hearings.

But things have not turned out that way. In addition to shedding a lot of light on the events and laying out a detailed map of Trump’s culpability, the presence of Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who have had prominent roles, and the fact that almost all the witnesses and testimonies have come from Trump appointees and other solidly conservative Republicans has meant that the hearings have appeared very much to be a bipartisan affair and it has made for engrossing viewing. NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik explains that the hearings have adopted many of the tropes of investigate TV shows and that is why they have been so effective.

Trump has apparently become angry with McCarthy because as a result of his decision, no one on the committee is defending him as he gets clobbered day after day. Trump is apparently feeling increasingly frustrated and isolated and in his usual petulant manner, is lashing out, clearly fearful that some of his supporters might be abandoning him for less toxic personalities. Trump is publicly airing his grievances about the hearings, a sure sign that he thinks they are damaging him.

Once again, all went smoothly and efficiently. There were no interruptions, objections, points of order or spoiling tactics. And that is said to have made Trump furious. He is especially critical of Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader in the House, for boycotting the committee instead of giving pro-Trump Republicans a voice on it.

Trump told Punchbowl News, “In retrospect, I think it would have been very smart” to put more Republicans on the committee. “The Republicans don’t have a voice. They don’t even have anything to say.”

McCarthy apparently gambled that this would allow Republicans to write off the hearings as illegitimate, partisan and an attempt to distract from more pressing issues such as inflation. But the presence of Cheney, Kinzinger and more than a dozen Republican witnesses has undermined that argument.

The hearings have painted a portrait of a man detached from reality, peddling paranoid conspiracy theories and putting himself before his country. Kinzinger noted: “He was willing to sacrifice our republic to prolong his presidency. I can imagine no more dishonourable act by a president.” They have also highlighted a callous, cruel streak that saw him make baseless allegations with no regard for how they would ruin individual lives.

A source close to Trump told NBC News: “I look at this and say there is nobody in America who is watching this – even with all that’s going on in the world with Joe Biden – and saying, ‘Donald Trump should be the next president of the United States’. Nobody.’”

Frank Luntz, a political consultant and pollster, said: “I see people no longer drinking the Kool-Aid. I see people moving away from Trump for the first time. His endorsement matters more than anybody else in the Republican party by far, but he does not control the Republican party any more. He’s the loudest voice, he has the most influence, but he’s losing control every day.”

One thing is clear. If you have been following the hearings at all with even the semblance of an open mind, there is no question that Trump should never be president and in fact should never hold any major office and should be in prison. So there should be some attrition in his support. But will those numbers be large enough to seriously hurt his support among the general population?

I think that those Republicans who are too strongly identified with the party and the utterly reactionary ideology it now promotes will hold their noses and stick with him. This is the case with Rusty Bowers, the speaker of Arizona’s house of representatives, who gave impassioned testimony about how he refused to go along with Trump’s appeals to overturn the Arizona results because he thought it was wrong and against God and the constitution. But he said that in another race between Trump and Biden, he would still vote for Trump and Elizabeth Svoboda tries to understand why.

Bowers’ choice to stay on the Trump train as it hurtles toward a cliff might seem baffling. From a psychological standpoint, though, it’s not all that surprising. It’s one thing to draw a moral line and refuse to endorse fake electors. But it’s quite another to renounce the political tribe you’ve supported much of your life — a pillar of attitudes, values and beliefs that props up key aspects of your identity.

But even for courageous people like Bowers, disavowing an entire political party and its current standard-bearer is a tall psychological order. Once we buy into a certain narrative about the world — one stating, for instance, that big government is bad, lower taxes are good and immigration is suspect — we engage in what’s called motivated reasoning to uphold that narrative.

Out of a desire for stability and well-being, we embrace arguments that support our view of the world and discard those that don’t. In study after study, people prefer to seek out evidence that confirms their political or moral beliefs while steering around evidence that threatens those beliefs.

Motivated reasoning allows people to feel secure and maintain their social ties, but it can also twist them in logical knots and tank their credibility, as Bowers’ Associated Press interview showed. And while the human desire to confirm pre-existing views might be strong, people can learn to overcome their own biases by exposing themselves to facts that refute their entrenched beliefs.

There are still more hearings to come.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    It frustrates me that my YouTube feed is not offering me any of this stuff, when a month ago I had to click “don’t recommend channel” about 20 times a day to avoid Depp/Heard stuff. Where is the publicity push to get this in front of people’s eyeballs? Depp could do it. Why can’t Biden?

  2. consciousness razor says


    Depp could do it. Why can’t Biden?

    Neither is in control of the celebrated algorithm™ which you want feeding stuff to you.

    Search still works, if you want to be more selective about what you digest, although I grant that it ‘s annoying and clunky much of the time. The full hearings have been on the PBS NewsHour channel, which is a relatively decent source for news videos anyway. I’m sure there are others too.

    I figure that shorter clips (in the range of a few minutes, not multiple hours) are a lot more more likely to be promoted for mass consumption. How many of those Depp/Heard videos do you remember being like that, as opposed to the entire day of courtroom footage? You might not have paid attention…. I’ll bet it was all of them, unless perhaps you actually clicked on one and that particular channel only shows the latter (which wouldn’t be a great strategy to support its growth).

  3. Holms says

    The hearings do seem to be painting a compelling picture. Step 2 will be Dems doing nothing with it, step 3 will be Dems pleading for votes to save them from the monster they were too timid to recommend receive charges, and step 4 will be Nancy Pelosi et al wondering how on Earth they lost the senate, the house, and the presidency.

  4. Mano Singham says


    C-Span gives uninterrupted full coverage of the hearings. But I am not sure if people outside the US can access it.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    @consciousness razor, 2:
    Your comment is baffling.
    I said: “Depp could do it [i.e. exploit the Youtube algorithm to put bite-sized chunks of court footage into my feed, unasked]. Why can’t Biden?”
    Your response: “Neither is in control of the celebrated algorithm™…”

    Eh? While you’re technically correct that neither controls the algorithm, Team Depp was demonstrably extremely adeppt at getting their content into my feed, even though I never asked for it, it bore no relation to anything else I watched, and I actively tried to stop it. My question is why Team Biden isn’t doing similar.

    Search still works

    Oh well thank you Captain fucking Obvious. Search worked if you wanted content sympathetic to Amber Heard, but I didn’t hear Depp’s lawyers bleating about how the jury had been affected by that.

    I figure that shorter clips (in the range of a few minutes, not multiple hours) are a lot more more likely to be promoted for mass consumption

    TYCfO, again. And again -- Depp/Heard was, presumably a long, boring, time consuming thing that got VERY efficiently snipped into entertaining highlights by… somebody. Nobody on Team Biden is doing similar for the Jan 6 hearings, and when I ask why not, I’m literally being told by the people ostensibly Team Biden “watch the whole thing on CSpan”.

    Which bit of the recent Depp/Heard nonsense did everyone hear fail to learn anything from? Take a long, probably pretty boring thing with a lot of legal technicalities, cut out all the shit, snip into decisive 5 minute compilations of entertaining stuff, then do what you have to do to get it onto feeds of even people who ostensibly have NO interest in it. This will sway public opinion your way, including and especially the young and media savvy. If Team Biden’s attitude is “well you can watch it all on C-Span”, well, it’s of a piece with the apparent determination of the left in the USA to wring their hands and claim there’s nothing they can do as a reactionary minority turn their home into a theocratic dictatorship.

    C-Span gives uninterrupted full coverage of the hearings

    Here’s the thing. I don’t WANT uninterrupted full coverage of the hearings. I don’t actually want edited highlights in my Youtube feed. I am annoyed they aren’t there, given that I was fucking deluged with edited highlights of Depp/Heard, proving that it’s possible, and that edited highlights of the Jan6 hearings, if they were similarly targeted and produced, could sway public opinion in the same way, except this time on a subject that actually matters. It’s a hugely frustrating indictment of the indolence and incompetence of the left as a whole in the US that no such thing is happening.

    I mean ffs couldn’t some rich Democrat just pay Depp’s team to do the job for them? How hard can it be?

  6. Holms says

    Sonof, you seem to be convinced Depp’s team had a hand in the flood of videos sympathetic to him. They didn’t. They were produced by swarms of dudebros enjoying the spectacle of a ‘karen’ getting ‘pwned’ and so on.

  7. consciousness razor says

    a long, boring, time consuming thing that got VERY efficiently snipped into entertaining highlights by… somebody

    Not just “somebody.” You claim it’s “Team Depp,” whoever that is supposed to be. Presumably not his legal team, since that’s an absurd conspiracy theory … just arbitrary people you’ve decided to give that label.

    I’m literally being told by the people ostensibly Team Biden “watch the whole thing on CSpan”.

    First, I’m not on “Team Biden,” not even ostensibly.

    Second, there are tons of short clips from the Jan. 6th committee hearings. You can go and watch them if you feel like it. Nobody is stopping you, if that is the kind of thing which interests you.

    Also, the mainstream news has been absolutely flooded with stories about the evidence and testimony presented in it. It is also publishing short digestible video clips (on YouTube and other sites and cable TV and network TV) if that is the specific thing you are looking for from them.

    I don’t know why you’re acting like it’s my fault (or Mano’s) that YouTube does whatever the fuck it does to your feed. If your feed is full of garbage, that’s partly your fault and partly YouTube’s. But as I said, you don’t need to rely on it anyway, because you have other options including via YouTube itself.

    I don’t WANT uninterrupted full coverage of the hearings. I don’t actually want edited highlights in my Youtube feed. I am annoyed they aren’t there

    Then there is no way to satisfy you, when you simultaneously “don’t actually want” either of those things, while also being “annoyed they aren’t there.” That is your problem.

  8. consciousness razor says

    On top of all that, the hearings don’t matter in the way you seem to think they do. What matters is that the committee sends its info and recommendations to the DOJ. That is what could put Trump and friends in prison. The rest is all spectacle. You seeing clips in your feed has absolutely nothing to do with that, because they don’t give a shit what you know or think about this. If the footage does shape public opinion one way or another, that will have no bearing on what happens to Trump and friends.

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