Trump may force Democrats to campaign on Jan. 6 — even if they prefer not to: journalist

Trump may force Democrats to campaign on Jan. 6 — even if they prefer not to: journalist

During a Saturday, January 29 MAGA rally in Texas, former President Donald Trump had an incredibly disturbing proposal: presidential pardons for defendants facing criminal charges in connection with the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol Building. Journalist Joel Mathis discusses Trump’s proposal in an op-ed published by The Week on January 31, arguing that Trump may force Democrats to campaign on January 6 in 2022 and 2024 even if they would prefer to campaign on other things.

Trump told the Texas crowd, “If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from January 6 fairly.... And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons.”

Trump hasn’t said for certain that he will run for president in 2024. But many Trump critics have warned that if he does decide to run, he would be almost certain to win his party’s nomination.

Mathis explains, “He's angry about the multiple inquiries into his personal and presidential activities, and he's eager to unleash his followers on the people investigating him…. Trump is plainly, openly weaponizing his base as a threat against any official who might try to hold him accountable for his (alleged) financial and constitutional misdeeds — he even dangled future presidential pardons as a reward for the January 6 defendants, offering an incentive to followers who might be inclined to commit mayhem in the service of his ambitions.”

Trump, according to Mathis, is “not much hiding his real aims anymore.”

“On Sunday, Trump put out a statement that, among other things, grumbled that then-Vice President Mike Pence should have ‘changed the outcome’ of the 2020 election,” Mathis observes. “It's not hard to see where all of this is going. So, what are Democrats going to do about it?”

Mathis continues, “It's not clear. Democrats spent the actual January 6 anniversary this year holding vigils, giving angry speeches, and — very weirdly — listening to performances from the cast of ‘Hamilton.’ Despite that, the party seems uncertain whether it can or should try to make a big deal of the insurrection as it moves into the 2022 and 2024 campaign cycles.”

Mathis goes on to say that it is understandable that some Democrats who are campaigning in 2022 aren’t talking about January 6, 2021 a lot.

“Voters tend to focus more on how their own lives are doing — how much they pay at the gas pump, or for health care, for example — than on seemingly more abstract questions about the fate of democracy,” Mathis notes. “And it's clear that many of them have moved on from January 6, even if the political and media classes haven't.… Glenn Youngkin's gubernatorial victory in Virginia last November made those trends concrete. No wonder some smart Democrats want to move on. But as Saturday night's rally shows, Trump may not give them any choice.”

Democrats, Mathis adds, “can’t really avoid” talking about the January 6, 2021 “insurrection.”

“The only real choice is for Democrats to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Mathis stresses. “They have to do kitchen table issues and keep January 6 at the forefront of the conversation. In fact, there's never really been any other option at all. As Republicans have increasingly turned into an authoritarian party and the broader conservative movement embraces a ‘post-liberal’ moment, the challenge confronting Democrats has been twofold: to shore up the shaky structures underpinning American democracy, but also, to demonstrate through their actions an affirmative case for democracy's continued existence.”

Mathis continues, “They can't just defend voting rights or shore up the Electoral Count Act; they also have to prove to voters that the system works by addressing everyday concerns about inflation, health care, and the like. It's not either-or. The two questions are inextricable from each other.”

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