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Opinion: Elections are approaching — how will Jan. 6 and gun legislation factor in?

The Jan. 6 Commission hearings have begun, and the Senate just proposed a bipartisan gun legislation bill. How will this affect upcoming elections?

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A television displaying the Jan. 6 Copmmission hearings outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington reads “to ensure that what happened on January 6th never happens again.”

People gather in a park outside of the U.S. Capitol to watch the Jan. 6 House committee investigation in Washington, Thursday, June 9, 2022.

Jose Luis Magana, Associated Press

A canary in a coal mine provides an early warning of things to come — usually bad things. A flock of such birds have been flitting around in the last several weeks (with more flying in), indicating trends and influences in national and local politics. We chirp away with our opinions.

The U.S. House of Representatives “Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol” is televising the results of a yearlong investigation. Will this impact the upcoming midterm elections? How will this play out in Utah?

Pignanelli: “People are not going to go to the polls on this (Jan. 6). People are going to vote on inflation, on gas prices.” — Leigh Ann Caldwell, The Washington Post

Political pundits are regaling Americans with comparisons between this committee and the televised hearings of the 1973 Senate Watergate Committee. There are similarities, especially the focus on the potential criminal conduct of a president and his supporters. But the differences are significant as many of the targets no longer hold office.

A deeper historical analysis provides guidance. Two months before the Senate hearings, President Richard Nixon enjoyed an approval rating over 65%. By July the next year it was 24%

But simply blaming Watergate for the free fall is incorrect. As the Senate Committee was airing proceedings, the country was entering into a crushing two-year recession and a double-digit inflation rate. Nixon already tried price controls and was unable to articulate responses acceptable to Americans. He was blamed for their misery.

In 2022, Democratic strategists are already predicting voters will have economic concerns on their mind, rather than the House committee activities. Further, there will be evidence against many Trump loyalists, but also stories of courage by Republicans refusing directives to void certification of the election. There will be no incumbents, or an entire political party, to blame.

Therefore, the Jan. 6 committee will have limited impact in the near future — except giving me fond memories as a 13-year-old watching the Senate Watergate hearing.

Webb: I have repeatedly expressed my dismay at former President Trump’s cynical claim that the 2020 election was stolen. It surely wasn’t. I also very much hope he won’t run for president again in 2024. I hope he will go away.

That said, Nancy Pelosi and her Jan. 6 investigation with its Hollywood-produced, made-for-TV documentary report is highly partisan and biased. It was tainted from the beginning when Pelosi refused to seat committee members selected by Republican leadership.

There has been no cross-examination or contrary opinions expressed in the presentations. Everything is spun in the most negative way possible for Trump and the most helpful way possible for those obsessed with hatred toward him. They’ve ended up with something like left-wing documentary maker Michael Moore would produce. It’s hardly objective. 

Certainly, those who broke the law on Jan. 6 should be (and are being) arrested and held accountable. But it’s important to remember that there’s nothing illegal about stupidity, about aggressively pursuing every legal means to challenge election results. It happens all the time after elections. And, however misguided, it’s also not illegal to claim an election was stolen. It’s irrational and irresponsible, but not illegal. After all, Democratic star Stacey Abrams refused to concede the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, even though it was clear she lost.

The bottom line is, the Democrats are in such deep trouble politically that they are desperate to change the subject from the collapsing economy, stock market crash, raging inflation and gas prices, the housing crisis, the immigration crisis, crime, and so forth.

Instead of working to solve those catastrophes affecting every voter, they’re spending all their time fighting the last war, determined to slay the evil Trump once and for all.

If it can be proven that Trump actually committed a crime then, sure, prosecute him — which will prolong this circus for who knows how many more months and years. But all the focus on Trump isn’t going to solve the real issues facing voters. Democrats are going to pay a steep price in November. 

Many primary and recall elections were conducted across the country in the last several weeks. What do they tell us about Utah’s upcoming primaries and the general election.

Pignanelli: The Los Angeles mayoral primary and the San Francisco district attorney recall election unequivocally demonstrated that independent and moderate Democrat voters reject policies viewed as soft on criminals. These results will spawn “law and order” messaging by GOP as an increase in crime is plaguing the nation.

Republican primaries revealed an endorsement by Trump does not guarantee victory. So Utahns should expect limited reference to the former president in advertisements.

Webb: Democrats are pinning their waning hopes on abortion, guns and Jan. 6. They are praying those issues will energize their base and make other voters forget about the real issues that voters care about. Good luck with that.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Utah’s Mitt Romney, released a compromise framework of gun legislation in the wake of the Texas shooting. What are its chances of passage?

Pignanelli: The mere fact a proposal made it this far demonstrates unprecedented momentum. This issue is important to suburban voters, a demographic that will determine the midterm elections. Passage of something is likely.

Webb: The legislation is a reasonable compromise that gun owners (like me) should be willing to accept. The package won’t take away any guns, prohibit the sale of any style of gun and won’t make it more difficult to buy a gun. It will modestly help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have one. And it will provide billions of dollars for mental help programs and school security — things Republicans and conservatives have sought.

It won’t be a “slippery slope” toward more gun regulation. Congress ought to pass it.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semiretired small farmer and political consultant. Email:lwebb@exoro.com.

Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: frankp@xmission.com.