January 11, 2022 | by Chris Cillizza, Rachel Janfaza and Shania Shelton
The first words Republicans think of when you say ‘January 6’
What’s the first word (or words) that come to mind when someone says “January 6”?
The New York Times put that exact question to a group of Republican voters recently. And their answers are both instructive and alarming.
“Way overblown,” said one man.
“Misrepresented,” said another.
“Blowing out of proportion,” offered a woman.
(The focus groups that these comments came out of were conducted for the Times by Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster, and Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster.)
Before I go any further, let me remind you of what happened on January 6:
A large group of people — many of whom had come to Washington to attend the “Stop the Steal” gathering — stormed the US Capitol. To do so, they broke through a variety of barricades, brutalized multiple police officers, vandalized the Capitol and generally caused chaos.
They did so in hopes of stopping the formal counting of the Electoral College votes because they believed (contra facts) that Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
People died that day and in the weeks that followed. Hundreds of police officers were wounded. More than 700 people have been charged for their roles in the insurrection.
That these Republicans felt comfortable telling pollsters that January 6 was “overblown” or “misrepresented” speaks to the efficacy of the misinformation that former President Trump and his loyal allies have been pushing about what really happened that day.
To hear that group tell it, January 6 was a mostly peaceful protest with a few bad apples thrown in who may have been professional agitators. (Witness Sen. Ron Johnson making exactly that — false — argument.)
This — as I laid out above — is simply not borne out by facts. And yet a not-insignificant number of people believe it. (This is a reality reflected not just in the Times’ focus groups but also in polling conducted on people’s views of what happened January 6 and what it actually meant.)
And because Republicans in the Senate — led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — killed a proposal that would have established a bipartisan committee to study January 6, we will never have an accounting of that day (and the factors that led to it) that is authoritative in the way it should have been. (Remember, the House select committee has two Republicans picked by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy balked at participating after Pelosi rejected some of his picks.)
The Point: We are increasingly living in two Americas — one that believes facts and truth are inarguable, the other that views them as negotiable.