Politics explained

The Capitol riots investigations tell a shocking tale – but will it do Biden much good?

Some political pairings are happier than others. Joe Biden was a loyal vice president to Barack Obama, and the pair came to respect and even love each other. In return, Obama became a supportive ex-president after Biden’s election. Bill Clinton and Al Gore also worked well as a team. Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale was a match made in heaven. By contrast, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush were not such close brothers in arms. Franklin Roosevelt disliked at least one of his vice presidents so much that he had him thrown off the ticket, in favour of Harry S Truman (a wise choice as it turned out). But no serving president has ever wondered out loud whether their vice president should be hanged, as the evidence shows Donald Trump said about Mike Pence on 6 January 2021.

That day was always bound to live in infamy, but the compilation of video and other evidence presented by congresswoman Liz Cheney on behalf of the congressional hearing on the attempted insurrection has reminded Americans just how close they came to a coup, and the assassination of the vice president of the United States in the Capitol itself by a baying mob believing itself, with good reason, to be acting on the wishes of the president. It is dizzying, fantastical stuff… but will it matter?

It will certainly help President Biden and the Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections, with control of Congress at stake, and looking further out, in the 2024 presidential contest. Even now, the 45th president is still associated with, and a major influence on, the Republican Party, and many candidates acutely seek out a Trump endorsement by ritual obeisance at Mar-a-Lago. The Trump “brand” will be more strongly associated with violence and extremism up to and including treason against the constitution. For the extremists who follow him devotedly that’s not a problem, and the likes of the Proud Boys will remain unrepentant. However, for other “independent”, floating voters, moderate Republicans and especially women, the sight of a mob storming the Capitol and attacking the police is an unforgivable one.


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