James Fugate had a lot to say for a man who insisted he wasn’t watching the U.S. House of Representatives get ready to vote on impeaching President Trump.
“I just wish this national nightmare would be over,” the co-owner of Eso Won Books said Wednesday morning as he rang up customers in his Leimert Park shop. “Every time you hear a Republican make a speech, you want to scream. But they control the Senate…. It’s a foregone conclusion: He’s not going to be removed.”
Even here in one of the bluest states in the country — a place that has defied the president on everything from immigration to climate change — voters say they are getting tired. Even if they approve of the job California’s elected officials are doing to get rid of a president for whom they did not vote, many say they are wearying of the partisan divide, getting sick of the anger they hear coming out of Washington.
And if they support the president and believe, like many Republicans, that the impeachment process is a terrible hoax? Double it.
Just listen to Billy Hoang, a 69-year-old Vietnamese American who skipped the impeachment hearings in favor of the History Channel: “This is not the type of action I want to see as part of history,” he said as he surveyed the produce at a Trader Joe’s near the UC Irvine campus with his far more liberal daughter. “Mr. Trump is who we will always support.”
More than 2,000 miles away, history was being made, a painful process that blared out over smartphones, television sets, car radios and screens of all sorts. Members of Congress talked through, at and over one another for hours, as they prepared to cast the rarest of votes: “Blind partisan loyalty … duly elected president … Democrats attempt to change history … I stand with the Constitution.”
For people such as Brian Mazariegos, such strident political talk did not start and will not end with the impeachment process. Sometimes, after a long shift waiting tables at a Hollywood restaurant, the 24-year-old scrolls through the headlines on his phone. What he sees dismays him. Personal attacks on political rivals. Constant talk of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The president’s alleged affair with a porn star.
“What Trump has done and said these few years has divided us,” said Mazariegos, who is on his feet taking orders for 40 hours a week. His goal is to save enough money to enroll in community college. He hasn’t had time to follow the ins and outs of the impeachment, but he said he knows everything about Trump that he needs to.
“That man has to go,” said Mazariegos, who was working at a computer at the Cahuenga Branch Library in East Hollywood while Congress pontificated Wednesday. “Either with the election or this impeachment.”
Jen Ruggirello was checking emails a few machines away from Mazariegos. The 26-year-old edits short films for a living and moved to Los Angeles from Illinois in 2014. She said she tries to avoid news from Washington because it’s “too depressing.”
“I’d love for Trump to be removed, but I’m not optimistic,” she said. “All of this is exhausting.”
At Jimmy’s Barber Garage in Sacramento, interest in Wednesday’s historic vote varied greatly. All the chairs were full. A television set was tuned to the proceedings in Washington, where Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) exhorted her colleagues to impeach the president.
Mark Dwyer, a behavioral therapist, said he’s been glued to the hearings in recent weeks. He listened to the floor debate on NPR as he drove to the barbershop for a trim and said he resoundingly supports impeachment.
“It’s historic,” he said of the debate over the articles of impeachment, which hinged on whether Trump urged the president of Ukraine to announce he was investigating Joe Biden, a political rival of Trump, in exchange for military aid. “It’s also unbearably depressing to listen to. It’s on its face clear that he did it. He solicited interference in an election.”
But Dwyer’s strong feelings weren’t shared by everyone at Jimmy’s. Others getting spiffed up said they haven’t been paying close attention to the hearings and don’t fully understand the case Democrats are trying to make.
Jonathan Patterson said he is “leaning toward him being [voted] out because he’s a terrible person.” But to be honest, he said, his interest in the proceedings has been “pretty low.”
Interviews with Californians from Sacramento to Newport Beach revealed more than just conflict fatigue and lack of interest. Ardor duked it out with cynicism. Sadness crept in. And there was more than a little pride in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), key players in the impeachment proceedings.
Sara Feinberg tossed a Frisbee to Stanley, her Aussiedoodle, at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica as her 2-week-old son napped in his stroller. Her in-laws had just flown in from Chapel Hill, N.C., and the three were looking forward to the House vote with muted enthusiasm.
“I feel like they had to do it,” said Feinberg’s mother-in-law, Mary Ellen Sweeny. “I think there’s political risk, but the people who think [impeachment] is a travesty were never going to vote Democrat, and the people who see it as necessary were never going to vote for Trump.”
When it came to the House leaders who championed the process, however, the three were far less reserved.
Feinberg: “I think Nancy Pelosi’s been leading with the torch in her hand throughout the process.”
Father-in-law Hoyt Taylor: “Where we live, Nancy Pelosi is thought of as a hero because of how she stands up to this guy.” This guy, of course, being the president.
Fifty or so miles south, Rina Sadiqui, a 29-year-old whose parents are refugees from Afghanistan, said she doesn’t think impeachment is the right move. The hearings and vote will only further divide an already polarized country, said the Irvine real estate agent, who does not affiliate with either political party.
The parties should work together, she said, a pipe dream in such a divided country. And the impeachment process? “I honestly think this entire thing is a joke,” she said, as she sipped an Abuelita latte at Cafe Cultura in Santa Ana.
Hours before the Wednesday vote, Mark Rapparport said he knew what would transpire. The 56-year-old Costa Mesa real estate developer with sunglasses and a big smile got off his cellphone in Newport Beach and looked into his crystal ball.
House lawmakers, with a few exceptions, will vote along party lines and approve impeachment articles, he said. This kicks the can to the Senate, where a “BS trial” will commence, he continued. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is likely to hold a trial with no witnesses, he predicted.
So far, he’s pretty much on the mark, and he’s deeply unhappy about it.
Still, he credits Pelosi’s “amazing instincts.” He believes the process so far has been “worth it.” But he’s looking nervously to the 2020 election, worrying about how the impeachment will play out and whether voters will turn their back on a president he says is deplorable.
“What matters most,” he said, “is how this process impacts moderate voters in swing states.”
Times staff writers Gale Holland, Cindy Carcamo, Sonja Sharp and Anh Do contributed to this report.