Steve Bannon has been convicted. For contempt of congress. Contempt of court has always been simple enough. Contempt of congress hasn’t really been a thing for decades. It is now!
This illustrates the problem with the January 6 hearings, modern American politics and modern politics generally.
The usual stuff, polarization, lack of cooperation and consensus as well as constitutional loopholes and weaknesses that compound these problems.
And finally, the media. January 6 is still treated as a huge thing. I have spoken in the past about the selective outrage against law violations and violence aimed against democratic institutions. The Supreme Court seems to be fair game.
Yet politicians who defended violence as an expression of anger against injustice, earlier in 2020, were shocked that a protest got into congress. Even with little to no weapons and no security forces killed.
A protest that was dealt with in a matter of hours. Stanley G. Payne, historian an expert on Fascism, and Richard J. Evans both dismissed notions that Trump was a Fascist even after the protest. contrasted that with the failed military coup that took place in Spain in 1981.
The selective outrage regarding violence and the framing one a binary narrative regarding a protest aimed at congress have the smell of Weimar politics.
Hearings based on Democrat control of congress and prosecution by the Dem led justice department would betray the weakness of a politicised prosecution system and congress hearings led by a simple majority.
Steve Bannon’s conviction will only galvanise those who believe the 2020 election was fraudulent, who think everything surrounding the January 6 protest was a false flag and probably anyone who strongly dislikes the current congress.
But also, will it help the Democrats? Announcing prosecution off Trump before the midterms is a big risk.
If Trump doesn’t announce whether he is running in 2024 till after the midterms, dislike for Trump won’t be nearly as strong a means to motivate anti-Trumpers to vote. Attacks on Trump will seem like old news to moderates. But it will motivate fanatical Republicans everywhere.
The hearings themselves are too long before the elections, any real trial too long after the elections.
And more importantly, the hearings themselves show Trump attempted to use protests to apply political pressure on congress, but did not order whatever escalation to followers and proving he intended it will be nearly impossible. Prosecutors (as opposed to congress) have tried to separate the actions of protesters from Trump’s rhetoric. Any prosecution would be similar to a murder 1 charge for someone guilty of at most manslaughter.
The disconnect between the hearings and prosecutions shows the problem with parliamentary and governmental inquiries. They are political hearings, where politicians or people appointed by politicians can use quasi-judicial powers and write reports that sound like indictments (and will be used as such by the media to ruin people’s reputations) without having to adhere to the rules of evidence, impartiality and so on.
Grand jury reports have a similar problem. A grand jury is simply empanelled to rubber stamp the opinions of the prosecutor(s), which can sometimes accuse people without actually indicting them. Guilty (in the eyes of the public) without a trial. Sometimes this is even done against dead people. The offices of prosecutor and judge are de facto united.
One solution is establishing stricter rules for inquiries, requiring them to follow similar rules as courts. Another would be to only have such inquiries be led by independent prosecutor’s offices, with prosecutor’s independent from any ministry of justice or government.
Even if politically appointed, prosecutors should not be directly elected, and their appointments should be made through the same broad consensus model I have suggested for judges. Nominations by either president, government, or a state governor, confirmation by at least 60 % of the senate.
At least if they’ll be tasked with leading inquiries of a politically sensitive nature, or anything where they assume quasi-judicial powers.
Maybe having inquiries be led by the highest judges, either based on consensus nomination through again some form of supermajority in parliament, or simply through appointment by the Chief Justice, could be a solution.
But let’s face it, at the end of the day, contempt of congress isn’t a charge that’s likely the outrage the majority anymore.