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Opinion: What are the consequences if we ignore the Jan. 6 Commission hearings?

Every American should watch the commission hearings with an open mind and judge the committee’s work on its merits. This means everything for our democracy

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A U.S. Capitol Police officer is surrounded by rioters in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

A U.S. Capitol Police officer is surrounded by rioters at a door on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

John Minchillo, Associated Press

As we have said before, Congress may not be capable of investigating political wrongdoing in a way that completely skirts politics, but when an investigative body made up of politicians uncovers pertinent facts, those deserve an accounting.

The sad part about the January 6 Commission is that a large portion of the country will dismiss its findings out of hand without hearing any of it. For these people, partisanship rises higher than the need to protect precious democratic institutions.

The commission, which includes two Republicans, is set to begin its first prime-time public hearing into the events of that day on Thursday at 6 p.m. MDT, to be broadcast over several networks.

In nearly a year of investigating, it has interviewed about 1,000 people about the plans to overturn the 2020 election, and sifted through more than 140,000 documents. The list of people who were subpoenaed to testify is long and noteworthy, ranging from leaders of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to people in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle, including his children, Ivanka and Don Jr.

Every American should watch this with an open mind and judge the commission’s work on its merits. 

Jan. 6, 2021, was not an inconsequential protest. It was not, as some have suggested, the moral equivalent of the many protests following the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. It was not a false-flag operation set up by enemies of the former president in an effort to discredit him.

It was an attack on democracy by people trying to overturn the 2020 election results through violent means.

The people involved forced Congress to evacuate the Capitol while they entered its chambers, rifled through the desks of elected representatives, occupied the offices of the House speaker, committed vandalism and erected a gallows on the lawn that, whether only symbolic or not, threatened the life of the vice president for failing to stop the certification of electoral votes.

In an editorial published that afternoon, we noted a photo showing “lawmakers hiding behind seats as Capitol Police, with guns drawn, tried to defend the doors to the House Chamber.”

Then we added this observation: “Not everybody agrees with the outcomes in a democracy, but the United States has a proud history of defeated parties peacefully conceding for the good of the nation. Now we see what the opposite is like: Mobs storming the halls of liberty, while the president is strangely quiet.”

The nation should know what the commission has uncovered about the breadth and organization of the forces behind this attack. People tend to lose interest in things as time dims memories and emotions fade. But this attack must always be remembered and never allowed to repeat itself. 

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of the Republicans on the commission, told CBS News’ “Sunday Morning” that people “must understand how easily our democratic system can unravel if we don’t defend it.”

If the commission’s work is purely partisan, that will become convincingly obvious. But if the evidence is well-documented, specific and convincing, America can’t afford to ignore it, just as it can’t afford to let false accusations about the 2020 election harm public trust in democracy.

Cheney also told CBS, “We are thankfully not at a moment of civil war, but we are certainly at a time of testing.”

How the nation responds to facts vs. partisanship, rumor and innuendo will say much about how it is willing to meet that test.