DOVER, NH — In New Hampshire, the chasm that grew between Americans during the Trump era has opened up again with the Jan. 6 hearings.
There are those who eagerly connect. And there are those who are defiantly disconnected.
Jack Brownley, 84, an Air Force veteran in Dover, said that while he was “not a news watcher”, the hearings became a date for him. “I look forward to them,” he said, adding that he had concluded former President Donald J. Trump was “totally, totally” responsible for an attempted coup.
Rick Hyotte did not watch any of the hearings. And he does not plan to do so.
“I’ve made up my mind – it’s just a show,” said Mr Hyotte, 50, smoking a cigar outside Castro’s Back Room in Manchester. He said he believed the former president was not guilty.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack convenes for its third hearing on Thursday, building on previous sessions that have shed light on one of the darkest chapters of the United States history – a president who refused to accept two and a half centuries of constitutional democracy and tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.
In a swing congressional district in the Manchester area, interviews with voters in recent days have shown few views have changed on the events of January 6. Reactions to hearings in this part of New Hampshire have largely followed the same hyperpartisan lines that guide how well the country responds to almost any issue.
Voters who backed President Biden in 2020 are watching the hearings closely and wondering if, after so many previous scandals, Mr. Trump will finally be relegated to a place of infamy. Voters who backed Mr Trump called the hearings a ‘sham’, a political exercise by enemies who have always sought out the former president and a distraction from more pressing issues like high gas prices and shortages infant formula.
Several voters declined to be fully identified, saying they feared becoming the target of harassment in the difficult political climate.
Liz C., 60, who works for a local government office in the wealthy, liberal community of Exeter, called the hearings a “waste of time and money”. She said it was clear to her that Mr. Trump did nothing wrong on Jan. 6. “I think they should just put him to bed,” she said. “Let’s focus on our current president and clean up the mess. Biden screwed it all up.
Carolyn K., 53, a graphic designer also from Exeter, said it was chilling that ‘people seem to really stick to the script that the election was a fraud’. When asked why she didn’t want to be fully identified, she replied, “It’s a bit of a scary time right now.”
Walter Holt, 79, a Vietnam War veteran and retired shipyard worker, lives in a community for seniors 55 and older in Rochester. He says a neighbor in his community wears a Trump hat that “I want to rip his head off every time I see him.”
But Mr. Holt does not discuss politics with his neighbors. He called Mr. Trump a “pig” responsible for losing the country’s “moral compass”.
New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, which stretches from Manchester to the southeastern part of the state bordering Maine, has long been contested political ground. The district voted for former President Barack Obama in 2012, Mr. Trump in 2016, and President Biden in 2020. He turned five times in seven congressional elections before Rep. Chris Pappas, a Democrat, did so. won for the first time in 2018.
Mr. Pappas faces a difficult re-election this year in a political environment that has become difficult for Democrats. He said in an interview that while many voters have decided to skip the January 6 hearings, the sessions are an important time for the country.
“It’s important for the historical record, it’s important for the people who lost their lives that day, it’s important from a justice perspective,” Pappas said. “We must ensure that the individuals who carried out a violent attack on the Capitol are held accountable.”
The field of Republicans competing ahead of a September primary to oppose Mr. Pappas includes high-profile figures who cast doubt on the 2020 election. One Republican candidate, state legislator Tim Baxter, introduced a bill this year calling for a forensic audit of state voting in 2020, even though there has been no evidence of widespread fraud. Another candidate, Karoline Leavitt, who was Trump’s White House press secretary, said that the 2020 election “was stolen from us”.
Ms. Leavitt wrote on Twitter this week that “DC’s corrupt political establishment is shamefully focusing on January 6th” as the nation faces more pressing crises.
Matt Mowers, another Trump administration veteran who Mr Pappas defeated two years ago, is looking for a rematch. He said that in 2020 some secretaries of state were “violating their constitution” by fixing voting procedures.
House Democrats are hoping the Jan. 6 panel hearings will reach at least two groups of viewers: the dispirited Democrats who might be swayed to run in November’s midterm elections by a stark reminder of the attempted insurrection , and independents or Republicans open to revising their views of Mr. Trump.
It’s unclear how many independents or Republicans who might be willing to do so exist.
In the days following the first hearing last week, a poll conducted by Morning Consult/Politico found that 40% of registered voters said they watched some of the hearing live, but most of them were Democrats. Only 27% of Republicans said they watched. In the same poll, the share of voters who blame Mr. Trump for the attack fell from 63% in January 2021 to 57%.
“There are few convincing voters left on the issue,” the pollsters wrote, “and those tuning in to the latest news cycle don’t appear to be among them.”
At least 20 million people watched the opening prime-time audience last week, according to Nielsen — more than this year’s Oscars audience, but less than that of the State of the Arts address. Union. The second hearing, held on Monday morning, reached around 10 million viewers.
Mark Ferdinando, 59, a Trump supporter who attended last week’s opening hearing, was unimpressed. It was “a lot of people who wanted to hear each other talk”, said Mr Ferdinando, an insurance agent in Manchester. “I think everyone knows what’s happened. I think they should focus on bigger things – the economy, gas prices, whatever’s going on overseas.
Maureen Harms, 45, an accountant who also works in Manchester, had a very different takeaway. She was troubled by the account of Caroline Edwards, the Capitol police officer, who described being knocked unconscious by rioters and slipping in the blood of fellow officers during the attack.
“Listening to his testimony that it was like a war, I was shocked,” Ms Harms said.
Still, she is skeptical that compelling testimony will change the minds of Mr Trump supporters. “There is no television or media that will convince them that they are wrong,” she said.
Many of Mr Trump’s supporters have echoed talking points in conservative media seeking to absolve him of any responsibility for Jan. 6. They repeated widely disputed claims that he urged supporters outside the White House that day to march “peacefully” to the Capitol, and that he authorized National Guard troops to protect the Capitol, but was thwarted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Carlton Cooper, chairman of a regional Republican committee in Rochester, said he believed there was ample evidence of widespread fraud in 2020, including the stolen election allegations made in the “2000 Mules” documentary.
“People know plainly that President Trump won the election,” said Cooper, whose front yard is adorned with American flags and a sign reading “Let’s Go to Brandon,” a slogan popular with conservatives who is the code for a Biden insult.
He did not watch any of the hearings.
Kathy Corson, an estate agent who is Exeter’s former senior lawmaker, said it had seemed that throughout Mr Trump’s presidency no scandal could stop him. She is more optimistic than most that tying Mr. Trump to an insurgency and financial scheme that fooled his own supporters will permanently tarnish him.
“The truth is hard, right?” she says.