I have often confessed my penchant for police procedural dramas and true crime documentaries and books. My personal favorite author is crime chronicler Lowell Cauffiel, a former Detroit reporter and columnist who likely missed his real vocation as a psychologist specializing in the understanding and treatment of the criminal mind. I raise the issue not to shill for Cauffiel and hawk his books (though you would not be disappointed if you bought one). The point is that the popularity of police dramas and true crime books provides a political lesson for the new U.S. House Republican majority about to conduct investigations into deep state corruption. True, the link between Congress and crime is not novel; but now that Republicans have the majority, one can hope they will conduct investigations to promote the public interest rather than in search of gratuitous grand jury indictments.
Whether the criminal is known from the start or is initially unknown and later unmasked, many—if not most—crime stories, true or fiction, encompass and cover the investigations. Throughout these works, the protagonists uncovering the crime face and surmount increasing hurdles until the killers are revealed, caught, and punished. This is the payoff for readers and viewers: the investigation whets and builds their appetite for justice, which is only sated when justice is delivered.
Granted, there are real and fictional crimes wherein the killer is not caught and remains unidentified. Such works appeal to the readers’ interest in the crime itself and surrounding investigation. Aficionados of this genre are not rooting for the criminal to avoid justice. They are not calloused to the fact that sometimes crime pays. On the contrary, one need only take a cursory glance at web sites devoted to solving cold cases to understand the motivation. These people want to participate in the quest for justice; and help it triumph over the culprit.
For crime fiction and true crime fans this is not an esoteric exercise in vicarious entertainment. There is a substantial public good manifested. People want to know justice is possible and can triumph over even the vilest criminals. This is vital for a healthy society. It builds trust in the criminal laws; the police, prosecutors, and judges who enforce them; and, ergo, provides the public with a feeling they live in a just and secure society. Books that reveal miscarriages of justice and corruption in the criminal justice system serve the same purpose by implicitly arguing that these are the exceptions to the rule within a just society; and that justice can still be done.
Thus, the lesson for the House Republican majority: investigations are a means not an end; to be successful they must address a substantial, salient public purpose. People follow criminal investigations because they know that the desired end is justice, in which they have a stake. If the House GOP’s investigations are viewed as an exercise in partisanship for partisanship’s sake, the public will tune out and turn out the GOP majority.
To take a recent example, the former Democratic majority’s January 6 committee was seen by the public to be an exercise in political theater for partisan gain. Unfortunately, for Democrats, that gain turned out to be for Republicans, who captured a majority. The reason? The public had made its mind up—one way or another—about January 6. The Democrats’ unseemly milking of the issue may have emotionally satisfied its base voters, but the rest of the country’s response ranged between apathetic or incensed. Even the modest legislative reform spawned by the investigation could not change the public perception, because said reforms weren’t considered important.
The new House majority has a similar quandary on its hands. In many ways, it is far more difficult. The Democrats’ investigations, including the bogus Russiagate witch hunt, generally have a complicit media and Big Tech abetting their deceitful “narrative.” Equally, the media and Big Tech further abet the Democrats by refusing to cover their very real scandals or, worse, helping to actively cloak and censor them as “disinformation,” as they did with the Hunter Biden laptop story. As a result, the GOP base is champing at the bit to do the job the media has abnegated: investigate abuses of power throughout the government, anti-competitive, monopolistic practices within the private sector, and instances where both sectors collude to infringe and extinguish Americans’ rights.
But the GOP majority and its supporters must not allow frustration to cloud their better judgment and cause the pending investigations to appear as exercises in political retribution. This includes issuing indiscriminate subpoenas and seeking to make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. While emotionally satisfying to many Republican House members and their supporters (and infuriating to yellow dog Democrats), most people will view it not as delayed justice being done, but as partisan politics being played. One need only ask the past Democratic House majority how that worked out for them.
What is critical, then, is for the House GOP to adamantly and continuously aver that the end goal of their congressional investigations is to produce legislation that will patently and palpably improve the lives of the American people.
Already, the GOP majority voted to create the Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, both of which will be in the capable hands of Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Inspired by the 1970s-era Church Committee that exposed abuses of power within the intelligence community, the current oversight committee’s authorizing resolution empowers it to delve into “how the executive branch agencies ‘collect, compile, analyze, use, or disseminate information about citizens of the United States, including any unconstitutional, illegal, or unethical activities committed against citizens of the United States.’”
This critical exercise in legislative oversight is long overdue because Democrats have failed to conduct it, supporting instead the current abuses of power because of the advantages they have accorded their party. Exposing and redressing the current abuses of power is the most crucial investigation the House can conduct, one that may well determine the fate of American governance in the 21st century.
Like all other pending and potential House investigations, this one cannot be viewed as an intra-swamp mud fest between the two parties. It must be conducted and rightly viewed as an investigation and rectification of the federal government’s on-going violations of Americans’ rights.
Unfortunately, the name itself augers ill. The “weaponization of government committee” places the emphasis on the government not the detrimentally impacted citizenry. This facilitates the Democrats’ and their corporate media and Big Tech cohorts to spread the misperception this is political theater for partisan gain without any redeeming public purpose. For future reference, as the need for new investigative committees arise, it is vital to recollect that naming a committee is a critical initial step in the branding process. It is a mistake to name a committee for the means (i.e., the what is to be investigated). Better to change it to reflect the end goal of the committee (in this instance, safeguarding Americans’ rights). While it is too late to name the new select committee something along the lines of the Select Committee to Safeguard Constitutional Rights, there is cause for optimism in the fact the House named another new investigate body, one that will constitute the foreign policy equivalent of the Weaponization of Government Committee in its importance: “The Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.” [Emphasis—and grin—mine.]
Of course, the Weaponization of Government Committee’s investigation must necessarily entail subpoenaing members of the administration and powerful private sector individuals—be they Democrats, Republicans, or anything else. Regrettably, many of the abuses of power commenced during the Trump Administration and escalated during the Biden Administration.
Of equal importance, the committee must seek the testimony of a bipartisan cross section of Americans victimized by these powerful actors, such as parents targeted for attending school board meetings, new media journalists and vaccine skeptics censored, voters disenfranchised by government election interference—sadly, the list of the victims goes on and on . . . David must have his day in the arena, if he is to slay Goliath.
As for the Democrats who are afraid of speaking truth to power and prefer to stand impotently and venally mute, remind them that when one American’s rights are infringed, all Americans’ rights are endangered. No, it will not change these Democrats’ minds or instill them with courage, but Americans need to know at least some of their elected servants truly respect and protect their rights and sovereignty. Further, the legislation the House produces from this investigation must have the attention of voters both to pressure the Senate and administration to agree to and pass it; and, whenever they become law, to provide staunch support of these reforms to ensure they are enforced.
Again, congressional investigations are means, not ends. Applying the above lessons to pending and prospective investigations will aid the House GOP majority in prudently conducting its investigations and passing beneficial legislation to improve the lives of Americans. Then, it will then rest upon the Democrat-controlled Senate and administration to prove to the public that they will put country over party and follow suit. If the Democrats kill such legislation, voters will identify them as the perps; and, come 2024, ensure the Democrats receive due electoral justice.