/2020 Elections: Where Impeachment Crosses Party Lines, but Fixates on Trump
2020 Elections: Where Impeachment Crosses Party Lines, but Fixates on Trump

2020 Elections: Where Impeachment Crosses Party Lines, but Fixates on Trump

2020 Elections:

In the changing suburbs of Bucks County in Pennsylvania, where traditional party allegiances are scrambled, voters viewed impeachment through the prism of President Trump.

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

2020 Elections: Trip Gabriel

BUCKINGHAM TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Treacy Broadhead, a registered Republican, has voted in recent years for all of her party’s candidates for office, save one: Donald J. Trump.

“This particular president, I don’t agree with at all,’’ she said on Wednesday as the House of Representatives moved toward a historic impeachment vote.

“I think the evidence is pretty clear,’’ said Ms. Broadhead, referring to the two charges that Mr. Trump abused the powers of the presidency and obstructed Congress.

A bookkeeper here in Bucks County, Ms. Broadhead embodied the political upheaval in the Philadelphia suburbs, where former Republican strongholds stocked with well-educated voters have revolted against Mr. Trump and punished his party in three election cycles since 2016.

Voters’ views on impeachment seemed to hew to their deeply dug-in feelings about Mr. Trump. But often, as in Ms. Broadhead’s case, those views were detached from voters’ longstanding party allegiances.

It reflected Mr. Trump’s dueling influences in this critical swing district: His alienation of suburban Republicans and independents, and his appeal to white blue-collar voters who once supported Democrats. Bucks County, while trending Democratic, has plenty of both, a microcosm of how Mr. Trump has scrambled partisan allegiances nationwide based on education level.

Come November 2020, impeachment may well have faded from voters’ minds, given the scandal exhaustion of the Trump era. But some voters said the Trump presidency would remain tainted, coloring the election.

Another Bucks County voter untethered from his original party, Mike Corrigan, said he was once a Democrat but is no longer. “I think the Democrats didn’t like Trump from day one and they’re just looking for anything and everything they can’’ to use against him, said Mr. Corrigan, who is retired from the TV cable industry. “That turns me sour real bad.’’

In local Pennsylvania elections last month, Democrats made historic gains in the Philadelphia suburbs. In Delaware County — where legend has it that only registered Republicans could get their trash picked up — Democrats won a majority on the County Council for the first time since the Civil War. In nearby Chester County, Democrats wrested control of the courthouse for the first time.

The blue wave also lapped at Bucks County, north of the city, though not quite as powerfully. Democrats took majority control of the Board of Commissioners, but by a margin of only about 600 votes. The county may represent the limit line of anti-Trump anger, where Democratic gains have been less sweeping. The county is positioned to produce trench warfare in 2020, when Pennsylvania will again be a presidential battleground.

“There’s a lot more new Democrats coming out who weren’t voting before,’’ said Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County Republican Committee. She called Mr. Trump a get-out-the-vote gift to Democrats. “They’re very angry and they tell you that at the polls,’’ she said.

But that didn’t move Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican who represents Bucks County and on Wednesday planned to vote against impeachment.

A former F.B.I. agent, Mr. Fitzpatrick said in a statement that the hearings were “poisoned from the very start” by Democrats’ decision to hold partisan hearings rather than have law enforcement investigate President Trump’s acts in Ukraine.

It is unclear whether Mr. Fitzpatrick’s vote will cost him in November 2020. His district voted narrowly for Hillary Clinton but re-elected Mr. Fitzpatrick in 2018, even as three Democratic women flipped other Republican-held House seats outside Philadelphia. Mr. Fitzpatrick calls himself “an independent voice for the people of #PA01,” and he has defied the White House to vote with Democrats on health care and the environment.

Many Bucks County voters still have an independent streak. Some 76,000 are registered as neither Democrats nor Republicans, about 16 percent of the total.

In national polls, which show impeachment to be an intensely partisan issue, independents have been evenly split on whether the president should be removed from office. Christopher P. Borick, a political scientist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said impeachment was simply not high among the priorities of independents.

“Even if they vote partisan, they don’t want to think of themselves as partisan, and impeachment is a hyperpartisan issue,’’ he said.

He predicted that in 2020, health care and the economy would be independents’ top issues, adding that for that reason the Republican talking point that impeachment distracts Congress from getting things done is a winning message with independents.

“I think it’s going to backfire that they wasted all this money and he’s still the president of the United States,’’ said Donald Sacks, a retired steamfitter who voted for Mr. Trump but is undecided whether he will again in 2020. He called the impeachment hearings “an exercise in futility,’’ adding that he was unconvinced Mr. Trump’s pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival was an abuse of power.

“Quid pro quo with the Ukraine?’’ he said. “He’s not the first president to do that. He won’t be the last.’’

Another voter whose impeachment views defy party labels is Jim Wulf, a retired owner of a carpet cleaning business and a registered Republican. He rejected the argument of House Republicans like Mr. Fitzpatrick that the hearings were one-sided, with the president unable to present exculpatory facts.

“He should have allowed all these other people to testify,’’ he said, referring to senior administration officials that the White House barred from appearing before Congress.

Lynn Williams, a retired government worker, also blamed Mr. Trump for obstruction and lamented the absence of key officials as witnesses. “I want to hear what they have to say,” she said. “If I’m wrong about all this, I’d like to know it.’’

And Ashley Mancini, who voted for Mr. Trump but is undecided about 2020, said “if he’s broken laws,’’ it would be appropriate for the Senate to convict the president and remove him from office.

But others forecast a backlash to impeachment that will lift Mr. Trump’s re-election prospects, including a second victory in Pennsylvania, where he was the first Republican to carry the state since 1988.

Jeff Jones, a retired restaurant chef, said he saw nothing wrong with the president asking Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a political rival, and his son Hunter. “So what? So what? It doesn’t matter,’’ he said. “He never said investigate the Bidens so I got a leg up on him in the election. He just said investigate the Bidens.’’

Ms. Williams, the retired government worker, who lives in central Bucks County, recalled that as a longtime Democrat, she used to show up at her polling place where registered Republicans filled a book, while Democrats fit on a page and a half.

She is not surprised by recent Democratic gains. “They are a reflection of what’s happened with all of this,’’ she said, referring to Mr. Trump’s conduct in office. “I think that a lot of people would just like to see things get cleaned up and get back to normal.’’

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