On this episode of the impeachment that wasn’t, the media goes to Middle America and finds that no one really cares.
For all the gravity of a presidential impeachment trial, Americans don’t seem to be giving it much weight.
As House impeachment managers make their case to remove President Donald Trump from office, voters in several states said in interviews with The Associated Press that they’re only casually following the Senate trial, or avoiding it altogether — too busy to pay close attention, bored of the legal arguments, convinced the outcome is preordained or just plain tired of the whole partisan saga.
Web traffic and TV ratings tell a similar story, with public interest seeming to flag after the House voted last month to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history.
If only Americans were getting more ceremonial impeachment pens, maybe they’d take it more seriously.
The people who care are passionate opponents or supporters of Trump. Despite the media’s best efforts, it hasn’t managed to make most people care. And arguably it didn’t really try all that hard. The media’s real goal was capturing the biggest possible share of the partisans. It isn’t trying to talk to average people, but to the obsessive haters who have made it very profitable.
But the biggest obstacle is that the entire topic never really left the D.C. event horizon.
Most Americans have only a vague idea of the subject under discussion and think that it’s largely D.C. insider baseball. Which indeed it is. The Democrats succeeded with Watergate because they were able to convince a lot of Republicans that it represented a blot on the country. They’ve tried to run the same play again, with little success, because most people have become profoundly cynical about politics and don’t believe that there’s anything ethical about it to begin with. And without a major inciting incident, the few people who tuned in faced confusing accounts from a variety of people in government positions and the whole scandal never actually left D.C.
The six major networks drew about 11.8 million viewers on the first day of the Senate trial, when lawmakers debated the rules and argued over documents and witnesses.
Combined viewership plummeted to fewer than 9 million people on the trial’s second day, when House Democrats began making their argument to remove Trump from office, according to Nielsen.
By comparison, an estimated 13.8 million people watched the first day of the House impeachment hearings last fall.
Around the time of the House impeachment vote last month, stories about impeachment averaged about 20 million page views each day. Last week, impeachment stories drew about 15 million page views daily, according to digital advertising and web tracking company Taboola. Google searches on impeachment have also declined since the House vote.
The overall pattern has been one of declining ratings.
In comparison, testimony from former FBI Director James Comey in June 2017 received 19.6 million live TV viewers, and Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh received 20 million in September 2018.
Even Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, swung 16 million live TV viewers when he testified in February 2019.
…tens of millions of Americans watched unedited tapes of the 1973 Senate Watergate hearings that eventually sparked President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
It’s estimated that more than 80% of Americans tuned in to at least part of the hearings, according to the Associated Press.
TDS is nearing its crash point. This has been going on for too long, there’s been too much drama, and too many broken promises.
Most of the country is losing the ability to care about the latest media gambit. And once impeachment sinks, it’s going to be nearly impossible to interest the public in anything else.