The special House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 siege of the U.S. Capitol kicks off a series of televised hearings tonight. Here’s how to watch. Here is what to watch for, according to Doug Muzzio, a Baruch College political scientist and veteran political observer.
1. What can viewers expect, big-picture, from tonight’s hearing?
“They should expect a dramatic reintroduction to the events leading to up and including Jan. 6.
“In order to work at all, it has to be a blockbuster. It’s got to be four and a half stars out of four. It’s got to be dramatic, it’s got to flow, it’s got to be succinct at the same time.”
2. What can viewers expect from testimony by U.S. Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards, who was seriously injured during the siege?
“[Ronna] McDaniels, the head of the [Republican National Committee], said that this was ‘legitimate political discourse.’ That witness is going to throw that back in her face.
“You don’t even need the testimony of the Capitol officer, but it personalizes the truth — that it was a coup attempt, a riot. It led to loss of life and serious injuries, besides violating the public space. It wasn’t legitimate political protest, unless your idea of legitimate political protest is mob rule.”
3. What can viewers expect from testimony by documentarian Nick Quested, who recorded members of the far-right Proud Boys as they besieged the Capitol?
“I don’t know what to expect. [There might be] a revelation from the mouths of the Proud Boys that there was some kind of communication with the White House or and/or Republican lawmakers. That’s the dramatic thing that I could expect, not knowing what he’s going to say.”
4. How does tonight measure up historically?
“The closest thing we’ve had to this was the Watergate hearings in ‘73 and ‘74. At that time, it was must-see TV. [Tonight’s hearing] is [must-see TV], in terms of the country. But it may not be must-see TV for the defenders of the president. They seem to have their minds made up.
“It’s a different political environment. You didn’t have the extreme polarization you have now. You had Republicans like [Rep. Howard] Baker and other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee who were willing and open enough to see the truth of the hearings and acted on it. You’re not going to see that now.”
5. What do you make of the theatrical aspect of the hearings?
“I think it may have more resonance to the future and historians of the future. I just don’t see it having a political impact — unless they conclude by indicting several people or many people at the end of the hearings, including lawmakers. It all depends on the justice department.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“I know I’m going to be fascinated, glued to the screen. A lot of people aren’t going to be grabbed. I’d like to see what the viewership is in total and the partisan breakdown.”