As Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump intensifies, Mark Stenske feels like he’s seen this movie before, and the storyline is getting old.
First, there was the nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s possible role in it. Then came the accusations against Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and contentious hearings before a Senate committee. Now it’s questions about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine’s president and whether that should lead to Trump’s removal from office.
“I think they wanted to do it all along, and they’re just looking for another way, another avenue,” Stenske, a 55-year-old Trump supporter, said of the impeachment proceedings as he walked his dog through a suburban Indianapolis park last week. “I think it’s kind of a ploy to help keep the pressure on him and muddy his campaign, his chances to win in 2020.”
Polling finds that support for the inquiry has grown since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the start of the investigation last month following a whistleblower complaint. But what those numbers don’t show is the sense of fatigue among some Americans — a factor that could be significant as Democrats leading the inquiry debate how to proceed with an election year approaching.
It’s a feeling shared by people on both sides.
For Trump supporters such as Stenske, the impeachment inquiry is more of the same from obstructionist Democrats still bitter about the 2016 election. Those who want Trump gone say it’s tough to feel hopeful after watching him flout the rules and spew divisive rhetoric for almost a full term — and get away with all of it.
“Impeachment in general has been depressing because it’s sad that it’s taken this long,” said Megan Gettelfinger, 33, a preschool teacher and mother of two who moved to Fishers from Indianapolis almost three years ago.
The question about how to move forward with impeachment is of particular concern to both parties in places such as Fishers, one of the country’s fastest-growing suburbs. The community has more than doubled in population since 2000, to just over 90,000 people. Companies have located to the area, and young families have been drawn to its good schools, entertainment and acres and acres of green space.
The boom in Fishers and the surrounding region has changed the face of Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, a once reliably Republican area that backed Trump by nearly 12 percentage points in 2016. The increased number of college-educated, more liberal residents has given Democrats hope that they may pick up a seat here in 2020, when GOP Rep. Susan Brooks is retiring.
Democrat Joe Donnelly narrowly won the district in 2018, even as he lost his Senate reelection bid statewide, and Democrats think the area looks a lot like the suburban districts that helped them win control of the House during last year’s midterm elections.
Trump should find plenty of ardent defenders here — people like Stenske, who voted for Trump in 2016 and thinks he’s doing a “great job” as president despite what he sees as Democrats’ relentless efforts to sabotage him. But at a park in the heart of Fishers’ Sunblest neighborhood, an upper middle-class area of young families and two-story homes, there were signs of problems for Trump and the GOP. For every supporter of the president, it was easy to find someone — most of them women — eager for his time in office to end.
Gettelfinger, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 after supporting Republican candidates over Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, has a long list of things she dislikes about Trump, from his treatment of women and minorities to his inability to admit when he’s wrong. But even she sees the impeachment proceedings as both a legitimate inquiry and a political move by Democrats.
“I think that what happened is impeachable,” she said. “I also think that at this point anyone who doesn’t support him is now jumping on ‘This is how we can impeach him. This is our path to get this done to get him out of office.'”
Kathrynne Shaw, 28, also opposes Trump but described impeachment as “too late in the game.” She said Democrats should hold off for now and proceed only if Trump wins a second term in 2020.
“It’s something they’ve been talking about forever,” said Shaw, who lives in nearby Noblesville and works in a distribution center. “They’re trying to show that they’re able to do something, but it’s almost like when a toddler throws a temper tantrum. They’re trying to do something, but everything they’ve tried to do thus far isn’t really working.”
Shaw supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, then voted for Clinton in the general election, and said she didn’t believe Trump could be elected president — until it happened. These days, she largely avoids the news and peruses Facebook only for the “funny videos,” skipping over anything political.
“At this point, there’s not much I can do but vote,” Shaw said.
Randall Scott, 55, voted for Trump in 2016 and said he also avoids watching TV news or spending time on social media. He reads some but generally distrusts both the media and the information politicians are putting out. Like Shaw, he doesn’t feel that following the impeachment proceedings is a worthwhile use of his time.
“I feel powerless. There’s not a damn thing I can do about it,” said Scott, who lives in Fishers and owns a business. “I’m not depressed about it. I don’t feel woeful or anything. I think that’s the nature of politics.”q