Watch the Jan. 6 hearings like your democracy is at stake. (It is.)
While we are a polarized nation, these hearings offer us an opportunity to come together in shared purpose to safeguard our democracy's future.
Americans who tune in for Thursday's primetime hearing about the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, will have a front-row seat to one of the largest investigations ever undertaken by Congress.
Will our fellow citizens watch and listen to the facts? Or will they channel surf and ignore one of the most consequential moments in our democracy's history? The proceedings are sure to feature present dangers to our republic but also acts of heroism by individuals who served the Constitution and our country.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol spent months examining what Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., recently described as a "multipronged effort" to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
No time for partisan circus:Jan. 6 committee conducted a serious investigation
Staffed by professionals who have served administrations of both parties, including former federal prosecutors, the committee structured its work in color-coded teams – gold, blue, purple, red and green – to investigate different aspects of the schemes that led to the bloody attack on our country and nearly overturned the will of the voters. They have purposefully sought to rise above partisanship. The question is whether Americans can do the same and consider the facts assembled by the investigation in an impartial way.
The truth might hurt: I guess that's why Fox News won't show the Jan. 6 hearing
At stake is nothing less than the future of our national experiment in self-government. And with the kitchen table issues troubling so many of us – inflation, health care and more – all of those concerns are at stake as well if we don't have a functioning democracy and the ability of voters to decide the outcome of elections. So the committee's work is critical.
Listen for these 5 prongs
To help Americans prepare for the hearings, which begin Thursday night and will continue through June, our organizations assembled a primer that lays out what is known thus far and questions that remain unanswered. We understand that a focus on "just the facts" is paramount in hearings as fraught as these.
Some of the key questions for Americans to consider as they watch at home include:
►Did senior Trump White House officials understand that President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election? To what extent did they coordinate to overturn the results, including efforts to submit fake electors to Congress? (That's part of the gold team’s investigation.)
►Did grifters knowingly fundraise based on disinformation about the election? (That's part of what the green team has been looking into.)
►Did the Trump circle coordinate with violent extremists to delay Congress' certification of the presidential election? (Listen for the purple team's findings.)
►How should we carefully distinguish First Amendment-protected organizing of a political rally from any criminal scheme to occupy the Capitol? (That relates to the red team's work.)
►How might political pressures and potential racial bias have led our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to miss a planned attack? (That question, which should keep us all up at night, is part of the blue team's investigation).
Cling to our common values
There will be those who dismiss the investigation as partisan, or as somehow designed only to target members of the previous administration. But Americans across the political spectrum share common values, not least that we are all equal under the law – and if the law is broken by someone, no matter how high their office or how deep their pockets, they must be held to account.
Reckless liars on 2022 ballots:Here's how Democrats can stop them
While we are a polarized nation, the select committee hearings offer us all an opportunity to come together in shared purpose to safeguard our democracy's future.
What then should Americans be focused on as hearings unfold across the month of June? Foremost is seeing through any attempts to distract and disinform.
There will be determined attempts to fog the facts and obscure the full scope of the threat against our democracy that the investigation is pursuing. By staying focused on the facts, avoiding partisan assumptions and paying attention over the course of six public hearings, Americans will be able to demand the kinds of reforms necessary to prevent a repeat of the violent attack on our institutions that we all witnessed more than a year ago.
Jon Steinman works on disinformation and accountability issues at Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to repair and strengthen our democracy. Ryan Goodman is founding co-editor-in-chief of Just Security and co-director of the Reiss Center on Law and Security at New York University's School of Law. Follow them on Twitter: @jonsteinman and @rgoodlaw