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On the Right, Impeachment Is a Distraction, Not a ‘Witch Hunt’

The Judicial Crisis Network, which spent millions in ads targeting Democratic senators during the Kavanaugh battle, recently conducted a poll it shared with other conservative groups to determine how voters viewed the impeachment proceedings. It found that voters were most persuaded by the argument that the impeachment inquiry was a reckless act by a dysfunctional, do-nothing Congress. This message was especially potent, the survey found, with voters in districts where Democrats won in 2018 but where Mr. Trump secured a majority in 2016. The takeaway for voters, said one Republican who saw the results, was, “I voted for these folks to go to Washington and get things done, and now they are all focused on impeachment.”

And with the congressional hearings beginning their first public phase this week, conservative activists across the country have begun adopting this message in recent days.

“The Democrats are no longer a party, they are a circus,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said.

The American Action Network, an outside political group that supports Republican lawmakers, started a digital ad campaign in 37 swing districts this week challenging House Democrats to “get back to work on the issues that will actually make a difference in the lives of Americans across our country,” the group said.

Democrats realize that they are not immune from these criticisms — especially in their most competitive districts. And lawmakers who represent these districts, many of whom initially resisted starting impeachment proceedings, said they needed to demonstrate that they were spending adequate time on issues more urgently connected to their constituents’ well being.

Representative Debbie Dingell, who represents a politically and economically diverse district outside Detroit, said that while she has heard from constituents who are upset about impeachment, there were also many who voiced concerns about maternal health care and prescription drug prices.

“We’ve got to keep doing our jobs,” she said, which at the moment also involves the enormously fraught and historic obligation of deciding whether Mr. Trump should be the third president ever impeached. Though she found the charges from Republicans ironic — “Mitch McConnell hasn’t been doing anything in the Senate,” she said — she acknowledged the pressure. “You’ve got to get back to doing the business of the country,” she said, paraphrasing what she often hears from voters.

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