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The Jan. 6 select committee hearings have fascinated many in Washington over the summer, but their political impact on major races in the United States appears limited.
House Democrats on the front lines fighting a red surge in November’s midterm elections say voters are paying attention to new details about the Capitol attack that emerged in hearings — but they say the economy , not the investigation of a possible threat to democracy , remains the main problem.
Most political analysts expect Republicans to regain control of the House of Representatives, as well as possibly the Senate, in the fall. The combination of President Biden’s record approval ratings with decades-high inflation is politically potent, especially when added to the historic trend of the party that controls the White House losing seats in Congress in elections. mid-term.
Even before the start of the House Select Committee’s public hearings last month, many Democrats on Capitol Hill were skeptical about revealing new information or breaking through with undecided voters. But several high-profile racing lawmakers say the investigation has sparked interest from across the political spectrum. They just hear a lot more from voters about the price of gasoline and other consumer goods.
Republican reaction to hearings could factor in races won on the sidelines
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., was surprised at how many voters — and from which party — are watching the Jan. 6 hearings.
“It’s not just the Democrats,” he said. “A lot of independents and a share of Republicans are learning more about this Republican party and what it encompasses.”
What Republicans have said and done about the Capitol seat could affect the outcome of his race in a randomized district, Kildee said.
“I mean, all of these races are won and lost on the sidelines,” he said, adding that he had seen polls suggesting that a large portion of Republicans “are shocked that the current Republican Party seems essentially s ‘apologize for the insurgents’.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Kildee says the economy is still the top issue on voters’ minds, but he also argues the GOP turned a blind eye when it came to the Capitol attack. He’s pushing what he says is the position of the Republican leader who could be the next House speaker, instead of talking about former President Donald Trump.
“The fact that they’ve gone along with all of this because they cynically believe they’re better off politically is really chilling,” he said. “[House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy basically chose the side of the people who attacked the Capitol.”
Another Michigan Democrat, Representative Elissa Slotkin, recounted how a worker in her district, a machine operator at an auto supplier, was trying to get people to pay attention to hearings.
“He said every time he goes into the break room they watch like game shows or soap operas – and he always looks to the January 6 hearing to try to make sure people realize how important it is,” she said.
But Slotkin says the violent attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election was not the main concern of his constituents who travel an average of 40 miles one way to work, adding: “I hear a lot more about inflation and gas prices.”
She hopes those outside the Democratic base can be convinced by the findings of the inquiry that there must be accountability.
“What’s important to me is that we reach people who don’t know how to think about January 6, who know it was a violent thing, who don’t like that violence, but who don’t understand what which seems like a significant level of coordination, who don’t know if it was really a bad day gone bad or, in my opinion, a really fundamental threat to our democracy,” she said.
Slotkin also thinks more conservative media coverage of ratings has had an effect, noting that many of his constituents watch Fox News.
“The kinds of things we’re learning have the potential to change people’s approach” to the Capitol attack, she said.
Democrats campaign leader wraps Jan 6 message with guns and abortion
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, who leads the House Democrats’ campaign arm, represents a swing New York neighborhood.
Even those who casually watch the hearings see evidence of how top Republicans worked to overturn the 2020 election results, he said.
“It’s criminal behavior. And they should be held accountable. And I think ordinary people understand that,” Maloney told NPR.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Wrapping the message about the attack with other issues is already helping Democrats close the gap heading into November, according to Maloney.
“The combination of ignoring gun violence, overthrowing Roe vs. Wade and whitewashing the attack on the Capitol really, really powerfully demonstrates to people that the MAGA Republican Party is dangerous and shouldn’t be running the country and shouldn’t be running the House of Representatives,” he said.
Rep. Dean Phillips, a moderate Democrat running for re-election in a solidly blue neighborhood near Minneapolis, has heard from voters across the ideological spectrum watching the hearings, but he doubts the hearings are a major factor in what concerns the casting. voice.
“Will it change a lot of hearts and minds? Probably not,” he said.
Report of the committee and possible action by the Department of Justice around mid-term
Maloney admits there is some frustration among some in the Democratic base that the Justice Department has not announced any action against Trump.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for people to understand if there aren’t actions from the Department of Justice to hold people accountable,” Maloney said.
He added, “Those of us who uphold the rule of law here respect the independence of the Justice Department. But it’s hard to understand why it’s taken so long.”
Slotkin hopes the committee will stitch together the findings and walk people through the results of the investigation in a “very concise way.”
But the committee’s report, which will come out in the fall, just as the Justice Department releases more details of its in-depth investigation, could bring it to the forefront politically, she said.
“I don’t like the moment, but I also can’t stand a lack of accountability for a violent insurgency and for potentially trying to, you know, overthrow a branch of government,” she said. “The rule of law is fundamental to the way we live together in this country, so I want the rule of law to be respected, even if it is politically controversial.”
Democrats in swing districts are trying to make sure voters hear them more about inflation by highlighting their efforts to lower prices, while reminding independents of Republican opposition to abortion rights.
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill have largely avoided any mention of the Jan. 6 committee investigation and brushed off virtually all questions about the new developments by saying the inquiry was one-sided and politically motivated. Party incumbents and challengers also remain convinced that running on the economy is their ticket to overturning control of the House in November.