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We interrupt Economy Month to bring you…Jan. 6

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WE INTERRUPT ECONOMY MONTH TO BRING YOU…JAN. 6. Just a few days ago, we were told that June would be Economy Month, when the Biden White House wanted to “pivot” from whatever it has been doing to spend June communicating its “accomplishments on the economy.” But now, on June 6, less than a full week into Economy Month, we find out that this is Jan. 6 Week. The House Democrats’ committee to investigate the Capitol riot will have a prime-time hearing on Thursday night, and it’s spending the first days of this week trying to build excitement about the findings.

Viewed together, the interruption of Economy Month by Jan. 6 Week is a picture of the Democrats’ dilemma. Voters care a lot about the economy, and they don’t think either President Joe Biden or his party is doing a good job handling economic matters. Democrats desperately need to turn that around if they are to have any chance, however small, of holding on to power in November’s midterm elections.

On the other hand, voters don’t care much about Jan. 6, but some Democrats believe the party can use the committee investigation to make them interested, all with the goal of damaging Republicans in the midterm elections. It will be an uphill climb. It’s not that voters approve of the events of Jan. 6. They don’t. It’s just that many of them have moved on.

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Just look at this analysis of polls, from FiveThirtyEight, headlined, “Americans Are Moving On From Jan. 6 — Even If Congress Hasn’t.” A more accurate headline would read, “Even if congressional Democrats, plus Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, haven’t.” But the big point is correct. Many voters are past Jan. 6.

“Many Americans want to move on from investigating the events of January 6,” FiveThirtyEight reported. The article cited a Navigator poll from early April, which asked the following question:

Who do you agree with more? Those who say the House committee investigating the January 6th attack is doing important work; our democracy can’t move forward until we uncover the truth of what happened that day, or those who say the House committee investigating the January 6th attack is too focused on the past; we need to focus on the future and the issues facing our country today, or are you not sure?

Forty-nine percent of those polled agreed that the committee is doing important work, while 39% wanted to move on and 13% weren’t sure. Put the last two together, and that is 52% who are ready to move on or not sure the committee is doing important work, versus 49% who support the effort. That’s a pretty divided group.

Among Republicans, 77% either say the committee is too focused on the past or are not sure whether it is doing important work, while 59% of independents report the same opinion — which indicates House Democrats have a lot of work to do convincing non-Democrats that the committee is on the right track. Anecdotally, in private conversations, Republican strategists working on midterm election campaigns around the country report that in focus groups there is little or no interest in Jan. 6, nor in the work the committee is doing.

Which is why House Democrats are going to try to make Thursday night a big show. They hired James Goldston, a former president of ABC News, to try to turn the hearing into compelling television. Goldston, according to a report from Mike Allen in Axios, “plans to make [the hearing presentation] raw enough so that skeptical journalists will find the material fresh, and chew over the disclosures in future coverage, and he wants it to draw the eyeballs of Americans who haven’t followed the ins and outs of the Capitol riot probe.”

It is not clear how many journalists are really “skeptical,” but Goldston and his Democratic colleagues will certainly try to make it a big show. Of course, Democrats also sought to make the second Trump impeachment hearings a big show that would draw the eyeballs of television viewers. They also sought to make the first Trump impeachment hearings a big show that would draw the eyeballs of television viewers. In the end, not that many eyeballs were drawn. But perhaps this will be different, or so Democrats hope.

In the end, though, what is this all about? More reporting from Axios, this time from Jonathan Swan and Hans Nichols, suggests that many Democrats want the Jan. 6 committee’s work to lead to — you’ll be shocked — the realization of a preexisting Democratic agenda on “voting rights.” “Some members want big changes on voting rights — and even to abolish the Electoral College — while others are resisting proposals to overhaul the U.S. election system,” Swan and Nichols report.

The leading advocate of big electoral changes is — again, no surprise — Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who, in addition to seeking to abolish the Electoral College, wants the committee’s work to help secure passage of Democratic priorities such as the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Other Democrats agree with Raskin’s legislative goals, Axios reports, but are not quite as out front as Raskin. After all, isn’t the committee supposed to be investigating Jan. 6 instead of working to pass the For the People Act?

On the other side is Cheney, a Republican who in many public statements has made it clear she just wants to get former President Donald Trump and make sure he cannot run, or at least cannot win, the presidency again. “Cheney thinks the committee will burn its credibility if it pushes for radical changes like abolishing the Electoral College,” Swan and Nichols report.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) created the Jan. 6 committee, some Republicans predicted that Democrats would want to take the committee far beyond the confines of Jan. 6. It’s about beating the GOP in the midterm elections, they said. It’s about pushing the long-term Democratic agenda, they added. And now that the committee is about to start revealing its work, after many leaks to keep it in the news, it turns out those Republicans were right.

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