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The Jan. 6 hearing isn’t changing many opinions in the Philly suburbs

BENSALEM, Pa. -When he was in elementary school, Dan Pigott happened to be visiting Washington with his parents in 1973 when the Watergate hearings were underway. He managed to snag a seat to watch the story unfold.

That memory was particularly resonant Thursday night as Pigott watched the opening hearing as another special committee of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 unveiled evidence of then-President Donald Trump’s “coup attempt” when he urged supporters to come to Washington as part of his efforts to reverse his 2020 election defeat.

“I think what this government has done is much worse. We all see what happened,” said Pigott, 58, a Democrat living in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just north of Philadelphia. “I am convinced that he instigated all of this. … I think this is the worst attack on our system of government since the civil war.”

His view was hardly a consensus. Others among more than a dozen voters polled — in cafes, shops, and over the phone — dismissed the hearing as “trash” or simply didn’t watch.

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But opinions in Bucks County, a mix of rolling farmland and densely populated, affluent suburbs, matter more than most because it’s part of a small cluster of areas in the country where both major political parties are still competitive. And few states will take center stage in the midterm elections, with hard-fought races for the US Senate and governor.

The January 6 riots are sure to figure prominently in both. Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano was spotted outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and has backed Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. GOP Senate nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz, was endorsed by Trump.

The Nielsen Company reported Friday that an estimated 20 million people watched Thursday night’s hearing on the 12 television networks that broadcast it.

The depth of the political fallout will be measured over the coming months. Republicans have so far tried to parry criticism of Trump for the insurgency by emphasizing rising inflation – Consumer prices rose 8.6% in May, the worst reading in more than 40 years — and blame the Democrats. The contest will be for the small group of voters who remain persuasive.

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Bucks County is closely watched precisely because there is a wide variety of swing voters. It sided with the Democrats in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, but helped re-elect GOP Sen. Patrick Toomey in 2016 and sent Republican Brian Fitzpatrick to the House of Representatives in 2016, re-electing him in 2018 and 2020. President Joe Biden carried the county by more than four percentage points over Trump in 2020.

In the interviews, Democrats said they wanted Trump to be held accountable. Republicans said the hearings were a fabricated excuse to go after the former president.

Others simply switched off. One woman, who declined to give her name, said she was on her way to work with a bag of coffee and donuts in hand. Asked about the hearings, she seemed confused for a moment. “That what?” She asked.

“I hope it’s impossible to ignore the evidence they find,” Pigott said. “I think, and I don’t think that’s original, but 40% always votes on the Democratic side and 40% votes on the Republican side, so it’s the 20%. Will it affect you? I hope it does.”

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Ron Soto, 84, a retired truck driver from Langhorne, is a staunch Trump supporter. He sounded appalled that anyone would tune into the hearing. He watches Fox News, he said, which covered the hearings but didn’t air it.

“Who would even look at that garbage? All they’re trying to do is isolate Trump and annoy all his friends,” he said. “You want to find him guilty of something.”

Judy Dixon, 62, of Doylestown, said she was a Democrat and watched because she heard there would be new information. She felt the hearing showed for the first time how closely Trump was involved in the January 6 events.

“I think there was a thought for a long time that we would only go after the low-level people who broke in. The committee has clearly said it was Trump-driven,” she said.

Will the hearings change anyone’s mind about the events of January 6th?

“I don’t know if it will change minds now, but it will go down in history and people will read it and receive and digest that information. You may not want to digest the facts right now, but someday you will,” she said.

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She recalled her parents’ political views and the Iran-Contra affair, when the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran in exchange for the freedom of Western hostages in the Middle East and donated the proceeds to Contra rebels in Nicaragua to fight against the Marxists surrendered the Sandinista government.

“Growing up, my parents were Ronald Reagan Republicans and Oliver North ‘ – a naval and military aide at the center of the scandal – ‘was the story and the sale of arms to Nicaragua and I remember you parroting what your parents are thinking. You were Republican, I was Republican. I later read about that hearing and all the information that was released that made me the Democrat I am today,” she said.

She added, “Hopefully this will be the same for this generation to come.”

Mike Domanico runs a Trump Merchandise store in Bensalem, not far from Philadelphia, and another is slated to open in central Bucks County. He is a Republican and a staunch Trump supporter.

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“I watched as much as I could take and then I thought, this is a load of crap,” he said. “I couldn’t take it anymore.”

Kathie Beans, 68, of Warrington, is a Democrat and turned on because she describes herself as a “political junkie.” She is skeptical that the hearing will have any impact.

“I still see those Trump flags waving. I live in a very democratic area, but do they come out and vote?” she said. “People are just busy with their lives.”

People busy with their morning routine on Friday reflected that.

John Helpburn, who said he is now voting Democrat but voted Republican, worked overtime last night at his job as a state employee and missed the hearing. He said he would have watched it had he been home but was ambivalent about the impact. High gas and food prices were the biggest problems for him.

Nicole Suto, who recently relocated to Bucks County from New Jersey, said she wasn’t aware the hearings were televised but said she would watch them later on TikTok.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/10/jan-6-hearings-remind-some-voters-of-watergate-iran-contra/ The Jan. 6 hearing isn’t changing many opinions in the Philly suburbs

Sarah Y. Kim

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