Can audiences overcome American indifference?

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As we continue to learn more about the January 6, 2021 attack on our democracy, I consider whether it will matter to disgruntled Republicans or Democrats. But first, here are three great new stories from Atlantic.


stubborn denial
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Before I begin, I’d like to introduce myself: my name is Tom Nichols, and next month I’ll be joining you as the author of Atlantic Daily, where I’ll share thoughts on the day’s news and other issues. I am a contributing writer at Atlantic, where I am also the author of the weekly newsletter Peacefield. I have a background in American and international politics; I taught national security affairs at the US Naval War College for 25 years and worked in the Massachusetts House and the US Senate.

These days I write a lot about the precarious state of democracy at home and abroad. I also have some quirky hobbies that I hope you’ll be interested in, including Cold War popular culture and music from the 70s and 80s. (More to come on this.)

In the meantime, brace yourself for what will likely be a tumultuous week centered around more January 6 committee hearings.

The first hearing, last week, began to lay out the case not only that Jan. 6 was an attempted coup against the United States and its Constitution, but that senior officials in Washington knew it was coming. They knew Donald Trump’s arguments about a rigged election were nonsense — ‘bullshit,’ according to former Attorney General William Barr — and yet they stood idly by as Trump encouraged a crowd to march on the Capitol anyway .

We’ll likely see more such evidence this week, but even over the weekend the beatings kept coming: We learned that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was deeply involved in the attempted cancellation of the election and that Vice President Mike Pence issued orders to the military while under siege.

Those are the two problems. And these would be serious scandals if America were still a country likely to be scandalized.

In an earlier era, Ginni Thomas’ behavior might have been enough for a judge to resign. Judge Thomas apparently cared no less; he won’t even bother to recuse himself from election-related court decisions. Meanwhile, we now know that the Vice President of the United States was in hiding, calling for troops to come to his aid, while the crowd screamed for his hanging – and the Commander-in-Chief himself sat in the House Blanche saying, in effect, that maybe Pence deserved to be hanged.

By the way, Dick Cheney did something similar to Pence when Cheney started issuing orders during 9/11. Cheney had no formal authority to do so either, but he could at least claim that he was acting with the knowledge of the president in order to aid in the defense of the United States against a foreign enemy. Pence was trying to save his own life – and that of the speaker, majority leader and other senior officials – from a mob sent by the president himself.

All of this is infuriating and even terrifying, but the question that worries me the most is whether it will matter.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad the January 6 committee is continuing this investigation and naming names. I want the institutions of American democracy to fight against seditionists and others who have failed in their duty to the Constitution. It’s good at least to see former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt tell the House on live television, as he did this morning, that the winner of the 2020 presidential election was “Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. of the Great State of Delaware”.

But I wonder if the committee will overcome the stubborn denial of millions of my fellow citizens and the staggering indifference of millions of others.

Americans face undeniable evidence that senior United States government officials plotted or encouraged a coup. They were told the military chain of command was in chaos for hours. It’s way beyond Watergate or Iran-Contra; it is an attack on more than two centuries of constitutional government.

And the news cycle? We are already above. Gas now averages $5 a gallon. Inflation is at its highest for 40 years. The stock market, since this morning, is heading towards bearish territory. These are tall stories, but within the range of “normal” tall stories. I am 61 years old; I lived through gas rationing, high inflation and stock market crashes, but I never wondered if the constitutional order of the United States would still exist two years from now.

I sincerely hope that I am wrong. I’m usually not a pessimist, but I am, if I can put it that way, shocked at our inability to be shocked.

Related:

Read all of AtlanticJanuary 6 cover here.


Today’s News
  1. Russia has forced Ukrainian troops out of the center of the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, according to Ukraine.
  2. US stocks have officially entered a bear market, falling 20% ​​from their January peak.
  3. Two unidentified bodies were reportedly found during the search for the British journalist and indigenous affairs expert missing in the Amazon.

Dispatches

Evening reading
A collage of a young woman and the devastation in Mariupol, Ukraine
(The Atlantic; Getty)

In Ukraine, youth is over

By Anna Nemtsova

If not for the war, Ira Lyubarskaya told me, she probably would have spent the spring walking the streets of her hometown, her headphones playing the music of her favorite band, Imagine Dragons, or sitting on the roof of her building in re-read Truman Capote. In cold blood For the umpteenth time.

Read the article completely.

More Atlantic


cultural break
A white and blue Greek vase with blue streams and birds flowing out of it
Miki Lowe

Lily. “Ajar”, a poem by AE Stallings published in Atlantic in 2014.

Look. Only murders in the building. Catch up on this true-crime obsessive comedy before the show’s second season debuts on June 28.

Or try another show from our list of perfect TV show reviews for short attention spans.

Listen. The latest episode of our podcast How to start overwhich explores misconceptions about celibacy.

Play our daily crosswords.

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

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