AMES, Iowa — The Jan. 6 House committee has started to lay out its evidence regarding former President Donald Trump’s connection to the riot at the U.S. Capitol. The hearings started Thursday, but it remains to be seen whether the evidence will leave a lasting impression on both sides of the aisle.
Iowa State professor Mack Shelley, who chairs the university’s political science department, is doubtful that the insurrection hearings will be a transformative moment in American politics like the Watergate hearings nearly 50 years ago.
“Other than the political junkies who just salivate over events like this, I think for most people, they’ll just say, ‘What else is new,’” Shelley said.
Shelley based his reasoning on two factors. The first is how much time has passed between now and Jan. 6, 2021, reasoning that some voters are instead focusing on more time-sensitive topics.
“There’s already counter messaging out there,” Shelley said. “There’s people saying, ‘everybody cares about inflation, we don’t care about a stinking insurrection.’”
Shelley’s second factor is the widening gulf between Democratic and Republican ideologies. While Shelley believes the hearings may give some Democrats a boost of inspiration leading into the midterms, he said the hearings will not change many Republicans’ opinions of Trump or the insurrection.
“If you’re looking for a perfect piece of evidence for Republicans, that doesn’t exist,” Shelley said. “Actually, my guess is the reaction is going to even further harden the other side.”
Even with his predictions, Shelley said the only way to tell how much of an impact the hearings have is what happens once they conclude.
“It’s going to be an interesting mini-series, and I guess we’ll see just how it plays out,” Shelley said.
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