OPINION: The popular TV franchise provides a model for the committee investigating the insurrection to cut through the noise and apply pressure to the Department of Justice to act.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
A word of advice to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection as it gears up for public hearings set to begin on June 9: bring the drama with a side of screenshots and secret recordings, a la some of the all-stars of The Real Housewives franchises. If the committee can channel the likes of Kenya Moore, Garcelle Beauvais, Monique Samuels and Shereé Whitfield as the committee members lay out their case against those who organized and incited the violent insurrection, they may be able to make some headway with the public—a public that is apparently paying less and less attention to the investigation.
Why is that, you ask? Well, if nothing else, these housewives know how to deliver a good read with receipts, and let’s not forget that some of the biggest cultural moments in recent memory are thanks to The Real Housewives franchises. That said, this could be a viable model for the Jan. 6 select committee to replicate as it does its best to cut through the noise and apply pressure to the Department of Justice to act.
The House select committee has already promised that more bombshells will be coming during the next few weeks, and if the previously leaked text messages and recordings signal anything at all, it’s that these leaks will be significant. At this point, it’s simply a question of how to make the leaks and the details in the hearings stick in the minds of the public and voters. Cue the “Housewives Handbook.”
Kenya, Garcelle, Monique and Shereé each know how to make a mark, for better or for worse, that penetrates our collective psyche. I mean, who can forget the Kenya Moore Haircare two-piece drumline, Garcelle working overtime asking Erika Jayne uncomfortable questions we all want the answers to, Monique’s color-coded binder full of screenshots or Shereé asking her party planner, “Who gon’ check me, boo?” These iconic moments can serve as a road map for the select committee’s hearings and ensure that they provide powerful public messaging, strategically present witness testimony, and never back down in the face of Republicans’ obstruction.
Thinking back to Kenya Moore’s drumline, remember that she was able to upend Marlo’s entire event with a simple beat, a clear slogan and a few treats for guests. This is exactly how the select committee should treat the upcoming drip of new details. This is their opportunity to frame the hearings with a simple message. Whether that frame is Trump and Republicans in Congress attempted a coup or Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows were the masterminds, the message must be strong enough to preempt any counter-messaging from Republicans and easy enough for voters to repeat to themselves and others after the hearings. The select committee has to sell all of the facts and evidence of this investigation with a steady drumbeat of information, and the message framing is critical.
It is also essential that the select committee wastes no time in getting to the heart of the matter, just like Garcelle did in her relentless questioning of Erika Jayne’s legal issues in Season 11 of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and in last week’s Season 12 premiere. Garcelle has consistently delivered for viewers by getting answers to the questions we all have, and we need that same energy from the select committee. They must grab our attention immediately by leading with answers to the questions that we all want to know. For example, how does everything tie back to Trump? Who knew what, and did what, when? Don’t make people wait for these juicy details. Lay it all out upfront and be as relentless as Garcelle about repeating those answers for everyone to hear.
And the select committee must stay organized about all of the details, just like Monique Samuels with her color-coded binder of receipts, screenshots, and piping hot tea. When it came to making her case on-air, Monique’s strategically placed binder of evidence set a new standard, and it put a nice bow on each read she delivered. It would be similarly beneficial for the select committee to leverage all of the evidence collected from nearly 1,000 interviews to explicitly expose Trump, his actions in planning and executing this attempted coup, and his intentions to overturn an election. If the committee does this as effectively as Monique did, they can hand off their binder to the Department of Justice alongside their criminal referrals, and there’s no way that Attorney General Merrick Garland would be able to ignore their findings.
Last but not least, the select committee cannot back down, especially when it comes to the five subpoenas they issued to sitting members of Congress who were in direct contact with Trump and the White House before, during, and after the January 6 insurrection. This is where Shereé comes in. When pushed by a disgruntled party planner, Shereé made it clear that she was ready to escalate matters if she needed to, exclaiming in the heat of an argument, “Who gonna check me, boo?” The select committee must channel her tone and approach, especially since the investigation will be ongoing throughout the hearings. Backing down on enforcing these subpoenas would only signal to Republicans that their refusal to comply is acceptable when in reality, their compliance is integral to getting the accountability we all deserve to witness. Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson has made it clear that the committee will use all tools and resources available to them, so maybe, just maybe the select committee might be able to pull this off.
Juanita Tolliver is a veteran political strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst who previously served as National Political Director at Supermajority and Director of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter: @juanitatolliver.
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