We Don't Need Another Hero
On June 28th, the January 6th Committee held an unplanned hearing because they had urgent new information and a new witness—Cassidy Hutchinson, who during the last days of the Trump administration was an aide to chief of staff Mark Meadows. Before that, Hutchinson worked for Steve Scalise and Ted Cruz, which is to say she is a Republican who has worked for odious politicians for many years. It took courage, I suppose, for Hutchinson to do the right thing. I can imagine she was facing a lot of political pressure, and perhaps even danger for coming forward to share what she knew about the January 6th insurrection.
During Hutchinson’s testimony, we learned some interesting details, like Trump trying to grab the steering wheel of a moving vehicle and lunging at one of his protection detail to get the Secret Service to take him to the rally instead of the West Wing. And when he heard that Bill Barr couldn’t find any evidence of election fraud, he threw his food at the wall, leaving ketchup dripping. He has a temper, which is not new information but these kinds of details certainly flesh out the portrait of a petty president.
During the hearing, Hutchinson was poised, firm, direct. She seems reasonably creditable though I don’t trust the judgment of anyone who would attach themselves to Republican politicians or the Trump administration. And immediately people started declaring her a hero and waxing at length about her bravery, her demeanor, how she was going to save the empire from its ongoing fall. Entire op-eds have been written about her courage. A great many people are desperately hoping that this will move the needle and ensure an end to Trumpism in the same way they have nurtured that desperate hope a hundred times before. It is not news that Trump was and is grossly incompetent, self-serving, venal and dangerous. We knew this before he was even elected. But we have also seen that he leads a party willing to tolerate his staggering flaws to hold power. Sexual assault, misogyny, a predilection to subvert democracy, are all no bother at all.
Let me be clear. Cassidy Hutchinson is not a hero. The bar for heroism must be higher than doing the bare minimum before it’s too late to salvage what remains of one’s future. And we tend to just slap that word on anyone doing something we cannot imagine ourselves doing. Hutchinson is doing the right thing. I acknowledge that. Sometimes doing the right thing is heroic. Often it is merely what we should expect of one another. I don’t want this to be a world where we need the incentive of valorization to do the right thing though there is increasing evidence that such is exactly the way of this world. Hutchinson has spent her brief career surrounded by terrible and not terribly bright men who are more than willing to be abjectly humiliated by their leader, repeatedly, to preserve their positions. Anyone would look heroic in that context. Let us not forget how she is perfectly fine being part of a party that demands the surrender of her bodily autonomy and is also fine with that circumstance for the rest of us.