I appreciate Ben’s thoughts on political exhaustion and largely agree with what he has to say about debates around school curriculum in this post.
I’m much less certain about his take on January 6. He’s right that many fellow citizens voted for and supported Trump. We should want to know why they supported him. And we should take some of those reasons seriously. But if we are, as Ben says, to think through founding principles, an essential one—the essential one—is the peaceful transfer of power. That principle was rejected by a sitting president and his party has largely lined up behind him on this issue. We should be clear-eyed about that. The focus on January 6 is not to relitigate the issue. Nor is it to simply blame Republicans. It is, in part, to fully understand what occurred. But it is also an effort to persuade fellow citizens of the stakes. This includes reminding them of those events and highlighting just why they matter. After all, not all Republicans approved of January 6. And even as many have come to white wash it, according to one poll 3 in 5 Republicans still support the efforts of the House’s January 6 probe.
I take Biden’s speech today to take up the partisan cause of constitutional democracy. We might situate it as part of an effort to rebuild a coalition of constitutional patriots, which includes liberals, conservatives, progressives, libertarians, moderates, independents, and anyone at all who cares about the future of constitutional democracy. This may be a winning strategy. There are plenty of Independents and Republicans out there who seem willing to join. Ben’s right that many Republicans will never join, and many Republicans will simply cast it as a partisan issue. We should expect that the debate around January 6 and all it stands for will often be ugly. As I write this, Trump is repeating the Big Lie. Yet ignoring that lie and returning to more prosaic politics has only allowed it to grow. Challenging it, and being clear about why it matters to the future of liberal democracy, may be the best way forward.