Accountability vs. Mythmaking

Mythmaking seems like the greatest challenge to accountability for the January 6, 2021 Capitol putsch. I have written a bit about the mythmaking before, and about my skepticism toward accountability efforts, but I perceived the connection a bit more clearly today, I think.

Marcy Wheeler brought up the bureaucratic martial artistry of the Cheneys again, today, and in replying, it occurred to me that the biggest problem for Liz Cheney (and ultimately the rest of us) might be this:

  1. For Cheney, as I have posted here before, I’m not sure how her political career avoids a dead end, now, without making the Republican Party regret becoming the party of the Capitol putsch
  2. I’m not sure how she or anyone else can do that, partly because it seems like it would require turning all of American politics on its head; short of an electoral leveling, I don’t see how Cheney overturns even Republican elites’ ire, and I don’t think investigations, reveals or even convictions are going to produce such a leveling
  3. Also however, it occurred to me today, there is a larger problem that the Big Lie about a stolen election has now taken hold among Republicans and I don’t see anything which might even begin to reverse that. Unless something did so, how and why do Republicans end up genuinely regretting an aggressive attempt to “stop the steal”—?

This seems like a fine but significant point. What can the investigators find out or expose which really reverses this? Say multiple top Republicans are convicted of breaking the law, and sent to prison. Say that the accountability efforts not only persuade Americans of their case but—unlike the impeachment-1 hearings—also persuade Americans to reinforce the verdict at the ballot box? I think at this point we’re already into fantasyland but let’s go just a bit further. Say voters deliver an electoral battering to Republicans. Does that, then, make them regret becoming the party of Trump and the Capitol putsch? I think not.

As long as Republicans believe in Trump and the myth of a stolen election (a myth which, as I have already noted a bit, has in an important sense formed over a much longer period than just the past 15 months), I don’t see how they ever concede being in the wrong on January 6, 2021. Likely the opposite happens. Trump et al. have already been embroidering the myth to delegitimize any prosecutions and convictions for 1/6/21 as partisan persecution. By much the same token, just for shits and giggles say that there’s an electoral battering of Republicans; won’t they quickly fit that into a bigger lie about election theft?

Obviously we have bigger problems, but again, I don’t see the point at which Republicans concede Liz Cheney’s vindication anywhere in here. Say that party elites know that the Big Lie was always bullshit (probable that in many cases they do) and say an electoral battering (improbable but let’s run with it) makes them really really regret becoming the party of Trump and the Capitol putsch.

So what? While Republican elites have had success at imposing their priorities on Trump in policy areas, they have failed consistently at thwarting his personality-cult hold over the party rank and file, a hold steadily rising toward upper tiers. (Ohio’s Republican primary for US Senate is such a competition to be Trumpiest, that Trump himself reportedly persuaded one candidate to drop out this week because there’s a surplus. Think about that.)

At this point we’re on the way back to points about which I have written repeatedly, inverse secession, folk migrations, etc.

But, for what it’s worth, the connection between the Capitol putsch and the Big Lie is not a single one-way arrow which finished on January 6, 2021. The Big Lie remains big and active, and as long as it does, it will continue pulling Republicans toward the side of the Capitol putsch and against the side of any accountability for it.

Finally, I might also note that I don’t think very many Republicans even understand this. Their obsession with secrecy and deception has baffled me before now, given how little any “reveals” seem to matter. I am sure that many of them are genuinely sweating what investigators may learn and expose. In some cases those who have severe personal liability may have reason to do so. (Even if Trump becomes president again some day, don’t count on him pardoning you.) But impressions of broader panic seem completely unreasonable. I suspect that few really have much concept of what’s been set in motion.

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