The divisions in Congress over impeachment have been made clear – and the key battleground state of New Hampshire mirrors the debate on Capitol Hill as voters consider impeachment with an eye cast towards the 2020 election.
Two things are taken very seriously in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley – politics and snow.
There was palpable excitement when several inches of the white stuff fell on Impeachment Day. But the vote itself garnered little more than a collective shrug of weariness and resignation.
Local radio stations gave equal weight to coverage of the proceedings and reports on which ski trails were operating.
“The partisans are very partisan and have already decided one way or the other and those in the middle are still undecided and probably a little disinterested,” says Mark Guerringue, publisher of the Conway Daily Sun.
“What seems striking about this compared to the Clinton impeachment is that nobody can agree on the facts.”
Like the rest of America, New Hampshire is divided. Donald Trump won his first primary victory here in 2016 and lost to Hillary Clinton by less than half a percentage point. His re-election campaign believes he can win next year.
Support for the president is strong among Republicans while Democrats are celebrating Wednesday’s vote to impeach him. But New Hampshire also has a strong independent streak – the state motto “live free or die” is proudly displayed on license plates.
How impeachment will influence the state’s unaffiliated voters – if at all – will be the real test in the coming months.
‘Trump did wrong, but Democrats have rushed it’
“A lot of people in my generation see the system as fundamentally flawed. Both sides have ignored the process when it’s convenient for them,” says 32-year-old Tony Zore, news director of the Mount Washington Radio Group in North Conway and author of The American Republic which explores national identity.
He describes himself as an independent libertarian and has previously voted for Democrats and Republicans. He feels pessimistic about the current state of politics and expects to vote for a third-party candidate in 2020.
He paid a “small to moderate” amount of attention to the impeachment hearings but believes President Trump did commit an impeachable offence. However, he disagrees with the way Democrats have pursued the case.
“Democrats have rushed the whole process and are using it as ammunition in the election. They assume Republicans are going to vote it down in the Senate so they’re not flushing out the case fully.”
He thinks Democrats should have taken more time to work with the courts to enforce subpoenas that demanded White House officials give evidence.
“Impeachment can’t be a partisan issue. It has to be reflective of the nation as a whole protecting itself against abuse. The party that takes on that burden takes on the role of convincing the opposition to join them. I don’t think the Democrats did that.”
‘Impeachment shows strength of constitution’
“I think the process has actually been extraordinarily fair,” says Mike Davenport, 75, a consultant. He’s a Democrat who supports Pete Buttigieg for the Democratic nomination.
He and his wife Karen, 59, remember the impeachment proceedings involving Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton – but neither think there are many similarities.
“The situation in the Clinton impeachment was quite simple – he lied about what he did, so the impeachment was about the lie and not what he did,” says Mr Davenport.
“By contrast to Nixon and Clinton, this guy Trump makes what they did seem so miniscule,” agrees Mrs Davenport. “I think it’s got to turn some voters. I think a lot of people are embarrassed they voted for him.”
Even though she doesn’t expect the Senate to convict him, she doesn’t think the process has been a waste of time.
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“It showed we tried to keep the constitution intact,” she says. “There was an attempt at least.”
“I don’t think (impeachment) is the ultimate destruction of our democracy or our country,” says Mr Davenport. “I think it will serve in the long run to bring us much closer together.”
What’s special about New Hampshire?
- Standing at 6,288ft (1,916m) Mt Washington considers itself the home of the world’s worse weather where some of the highest wind speeds on land have ever been recorded
- The swing state is one of the first to vote in US national elections and is thought to influence the momentum of any campaigning candidate
- The so-called “Granite State” leans Democratic. The state’s official motto is “Live Free or Die”
- Hillary Clinton narrowly defeated Trump to win the state in 2016
‘What’s happened is very scary’
“Our founding fathers must be rolling in their graves,” says Sue Nelson, a retired athletic director from North Conway and a Trump supporter.
“What Democrats are doing is really frightening for the future of our country. They are trying to impeach a president who has broken no laws, who’s literally done nothing wrong, on the grounds that they don’t agree with his policies and they hate him.
“I wouldn’t say that the call (to the Ukrainian president) was squeaky clean or ‘perfect’ as the president says, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the grounds for impeachment.”
She warns that impeaching President Trump will set a dangerous precedent that could be repeated by any party. There could also be repercussions for New Hampshire’s Democratic representatives who supported impeachment, she says.
“There have to be consequences for this. People should go to the polls and vote out all those who voted for such an unfair and dangerous process,” she says.
“That is the only thing we can do at this point. America, you need to wake up to this. This is very scary.”