After several days of high drama, theatrics and witness testimony sprinkled in between, the televised public impeachment inquiry hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee are mercifully over.
Although partisans on both sides of the aisle gobbled up the goings–on much in the same way passersby can’t help but stare at train wrecks, much of the rest of America tuned out the proceedings.
You wouldn’t know that if you watched the cable news networks for any length of time during the two weeks they broadcast coverage of all the action. As they breathlessly reported on the various testimonies and gave play-by-plays, anchors and reporters painted everything as a “bombshell” indictment of President Trump and pretended Americans were glued to their TVs and smartphones in record numbers.
The reality was much different, however.
An average of 12 million people a day watched the five days of testimony, with the highest day being 13.8 million on the first day of coverage when acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and State Department official George Kent appeared before the committee.
Those numbers are much lower than the over 19 million who tuned in to watch former FBI Director James Comey testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, which was the first year of Trump’s presidency. Sixteen million people also watched Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in February 2019.
That said, 13.8 million might still sound like a lot. But around 330 million people live in America, so when viewed from that perspective, it’s clear most people weren’t interested.
So why did so few people watch the impeachment inquiry hearings? We can only speculate, but one highly plausible answer is a very simple one: Impeachment fatigue.
The mainstream media, liberal commentators and “Never Trump” types have said for three years now, without evidence, that we were at “tipping points” with Trump. The “walls” have been “closing in” and “the beginning of the end” has been eagerly reported, predicted and/or hyped by these same people ever since he was inaugurated.
They have continuously stirred the pot and whipped viewers into a frenzy over and over again over “bombshells” that ultimately ended up amounting to nothing.
As a result, most people simply don’t believe them anymore.
As evidence of this, before the start of the public hearings earlier this month Democrats touted polling numbers that showed a plurality (but not a majority) of the American people at the very least supported an impeachment inquiry if not outright impeachment itself.
But over the course of the hearings, support for impeachment dropped dramatically, specifically among independents. Two different polls from two separate polling outfits each showed a 10-point swing among independents against impeaching Trump.
Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) have both said it’s worth risking losing their House majority to impeach Trump, there is a real concern among Democratic leaders — including both Pelosi and Schiff — about how this will play out among vulnerable House Democrats in the months to come.
Independents are a key voting bloc for both Republicans and Democrats, and they can often swing elections in competitive races that are super-close.
Have Democrats bitten off more than they can chew in their rush to impeach the president? Polls will give us some more clues in the weeks ahead as the House Judiciary Committee’s role in the impeachment inquiry process kicks into high gear.
But with impeachment unlikely to happen in the Republican-controlled Senate, Trump’s fate will ultimately be up to voters all across America a year from now — which is how elections should be decided.
Stacey Matthews is a veteran blogger who has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to Red State and Legal Insurrection.