Public testimony regarding the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump got underway this week in Washington D.C.
In the weeks since the inquiry began in Congress, local voters have been clamoring for common sense. Those on the left and those on the right seem as divided along partisan lines locally as is evident across the country.
In the latest installment of the ongoing “Pulse of the Voters” series, the Effingham Daily News listened to those voters as they talked politics, impeachment and the election in 2020.
Fox News over lunch
A reporter from Fox News was on the television screen at the Iron Horse Cafe in Effingham as Dave Greuel of Sigel sat alone having a late lunch.
A single man and a devout Catholic, Greuel said he’s been voting Republican on the state and national candidates since he graduated from Neoga High School in 1980. He comes from a family who believes in the importance of hard work to survive.
That was important, especially knowing he came from a family with 13 children.
The Shelby County man said voting pro-life is important to him. That’s one of the reasons he voted for Trump.
“I think he’s said some stupid things, but I’m not sure he has done anything illegal,” Gruel said.
“In the big elections, I usually vote Republican, but in the local elections I might vote Democrat,” said Greuel, 57.
He works an early shift at 3Z Printing and stopped in for a meal after work ended around 2 p.m. on this recent day. He also helps his brothers with farming in Shelby County.
Greuel referred to Fox News on the television and admitted he really didn’t understand all the inner workings of the impeachment inquiry.
“They are saying it is all illegal,” said Greuel about the report that the Democrats handling the closed session discovery wasn’t on the up and up. “Supposedly the Democrats are having talks and they (Republicans and Democrats) are arguing that they can’t be secretive, but I really am not sure about all of this.”
Related to the president not always saying the most appropriate things, this voter didn’t appreciate Trump’s words when it came to the late U.S. Senator John McCain.
And when it comes to tariffs and the China trade war, Greuel believes Trump’s goal is to better equalize tax for both countries.
“If China won’t buy our grain, it will make our crops pretty worthless,” said Greuel. “They have a lot of people to feed over there.”
When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, Greuel said it’s a good thing for people who don’t make a lot of money. But for those who are doing better financially, the plan ends up costing them more. So, the people who made less, pay less.
“But, someone has to pay those bills,” said Greuel.
“Some prescription drug prices are just nuts,” said Greuel. “Some medications are astronomical. The pharmaceutical companies are saying they are going through some trial and error and that they need to make that money back. Are they gouging or not? I don’t really know.”
Greuel said he was surprised to see Trump win the presidential election in 2016. But now he thinks Trump will win a second term.
“If you can get enough people who understand that people in today’s society have to work hard to make their way, then Trump will win, if the majority of the people think like that,” said Greuel. “But if the majority just want a government hand out, he’ll lose.”
And for southern border security, Greuel asks why immigrants try to find their way across the border, knowing they are taking a risk of being sent back.
“Some end up dead trying to get across the desert,” said Greuel.
He added that he’s not against building a wall at the border. But how will it be paid for? That money has to come from somewhere and the United States citizens will end up paying for it.
“The wall would help,” said Greuel. “It would make it less tempting for them to try to come across. It would be good for the United States and good for them, too.”
Thirsty for common sense
It was “Thirsty Thursday” at the Event Center in Effingham, and friends gathered for political conversation and drinks.
Republicans Jerry and Peg Jansen of Effingham said they are both registered with the GOP, but they typically don’t vote along party lines – they instead vote for the person who best suits them.
“I’ve been both (Republican and Democrat,)” said Jerry Jansen, 77, who is in the real estate business.
“We vote for the person, more than the party,” said Peg Jansen, 58, an office manager for a dental practice.
Mention of the impeachment inquiry drew sighs.
“Ugh,” said Peg Jansen. “It’s just silliness.”
“It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Jerry Jansen.
Jerry Jansen said the Democratic party is handling the inquiry as “guilty until proven innocent,” when in the United States it should be “innocent until proven guilty.”
A few minutes later, another couple, Bill and Kathy McClain of Effingham, joined the table. The couple said they have no party affiliation.
The topic of tariffs elicited conversation.
“Tariffs should have been done a long, long time ago,” said Bill McClain, a retired educator. “It’s an intricate process. There hasn’t been a level playing field for years. We are becoming a nation of consumers. We can’t continue to do that.”
Jerry Jansen said the United States has been on the wrong side of that policy.
Regarding impeachment, Bill McClain said the Democrats have been trying to oust Trump since before his inauguration.
“They’ve been trying to remove the current president, even before he was elected,” said Bill McClain, 71, “I’m a little tired of the process. I think it is definitely politically motivated.”
Bill McClain said some of the things Trump is criticized for are exactly the same things previously said by both former President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, which he said went unnoticed by the media and some members of the public.
Jerry Jansen believes the large pool of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination will help Trump win in 2020.
“Those debates are helping Trump gain popularity,” said Jerry Jansen. “I think Trump could win by a landslide if this keeps going.”
Local Democrat: Trump caught red-handed
On a recent morning at a coffee shop in Effingham, two Democrats chatted about the national political scene.
Although they come from different backgrounds and different eras, both were raised in families devoted to the Grand Old Party before turning to the other major political party.
A local musician and entrepreneur, Bill Passalacqua and nurse practitioner Carol Warfield, hope that 2020 brings wins for the Democrats.
“I don’t see the House changing hands,” said Passalacqua. “I think the Senate is a toss up. I have no view of who will win the Democratic presidential nomination, but if Trump is the GOP nominee, the Democrats will win. Americans are tired of the chaos and embarrassed by the constant drama and weary of the fight.”
Warfield remains “cautiously hopeful” that the Democrats will take some more control.
“I believe the Democrats will maintain control of the House, but there really are too many variables determining the Senate and the White House,” said Warfield.
Passalacqua reflected on the way Trump has used tariffs in a “trade war” against China, and yet maintains unwavering support from many Republicans.
“I grew up in a GOP family and ‘tariff’ was a dirty word,” said Passalacqua, 53, of Effingham. “While I do think they can be used constructively, but not as a volley in a trade war. I think this is economic folly and the American people and the American farmer are paying the price.”
Warfield, 77, also of Effingham, said she grew up in a moderate Republican family in a small town, but she became a Democrat later in her professional life.
“I gradually morphed into a Democrat over the early years of my professional career, as I became more aware of the general social, financial and educational opportunity inequities in this country,” said Warfield, who still works as a nurse practitioner, on an as needed basis.
Unlike the Republicans surveyed during this season of Pulse of the Voters, the two Democrats believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses.
“I am waiting to see what the public hearings show, but highly doubt that members of his party are even remotely interested in the truth,” said Warfield. “It appears to be party over country at this time.”
Passalacqua, who has a law degree, explained that in every judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding, it begins with an investigation and in most cases, just like this one involving Trump, the investigation starts out in private.
“It shows how desperate they are to defend the President and how weak their defense is. They can’t argue the facts, they can’t argue the law, so they just shout ‘Unfair!’” said Passalacqua. “This is standard operating procedure, no different in this regard from Nixon or Clinton impeachments.”
As far as what stemmed from the inquiry, Passalacqua said Trump’s dealings with the Ukrainian government looks suspicious.
“I think the Ukraine scandal presents an easy to see, easy to prove set of facts that the American people can easily understand,” said Passalacqua. “They can see for themselves how Trump operates. He was caught red handed using the purse-strings of the American government to get a foreign government to do his personal dirty work and to benefit him personally.”
Talk at Farmers Market
Patrick Dasenbrock, 69, of Teutopolis, was a vendor at one of the last Farmers Market dates for the season in Effingham. He had plenty of produce that he grew in his garden and was setting up for some buyers on the Courthouse Square recently.
“Everything here is grown from seed,” said Dasenbrock. “I planted those peppers in February and this week they’ve really come around.”
He took a break to share his thoughts about the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Dasenbrock, who describes himself as an Independent Republican. “There’s just no reason to do it.”
Soon a customer meandered by, looking over freshly picked peppers, radishes and pumpkins at Dasenbrock’s produce stand. He paused to assist the elderly customer select some radishes from his table.
Dasenbrock said depending on who you talk to, there are different interpretations of the news and different sources from which to obtain news.
“Different people interpret what they see on the news, and they are getting their news from different places,” said Dasenbrock. “My opinion is for the 2020 election, the Democrats are digging themselves in such a deep hole by all the false accusations against the Republicans – like Trump and Cavanaugh and others – they keep trying to bury them and ruin their lives. I think considering all of that the Republicans and Trump will win big time.”
As a long-time employee of a hardware business, he said the China trade war might help with the quality of products coming into the U.S. He said he sends things back that aren’t up to the caliber he thinks local customers deserve for the price.
“I don’t see any effects of the China trade war personally, but I do know it is affecting other people,” said Dasenbrock. “In the hardware business I see it. Prices have gone up since January, maybe 10, 15 or 20 percent. So, all around prices are increasing partly because of that, partly because prices just go up.”
“In my opinion, we don’t need that Chinese junk. Some of it is just worthless.”
He added that the China trade war is rough on U.S. farmers.
“I listen to a radio show – a farming news show – and from what I hear there the farmers are in agreement with this trade war, but they are willing to go through a little pain to get this straightened out.”
When it comes to Trump’s proposed border wall, Dasenbrock supports that idea.
“We need tighter security at the border and the wall is one way to get that,” said Dasenbrock. “There are other ways, but people wouldn’t approve of that, so the wall is probably is the best way to strengthen U.S. border security.”