A new poll from The Public’s Radio, The Providence Journal, and ABC6 finds that most Rhode Islanders don’t think Congress should vote to impeach President Donald Trump, at least not yet.
Back in January 2017, a couple weeks after Trump’s presidential inauguration, a group of frustrated Rhode Islanders stormed U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s Cranston office. They urged Reed to oppose Trump on nearly every issue: health care, cabinet picks, the Supreme Court.
Then one woman in the crowd piped up.
“Personally, I think we need to start talking about impeachment,” she said.
That woman was Maureen O’Sullivan, a retired nurse from Cranston. Now, nearly two years later, does she still feel the same way?
“Oh yeah, unfortunately I do,” she said in a telephone interview. The last two years haven’t been as bad as she’d anticipated, she said, but she still wants to see Trump out.
“I think we were all just walking around in a daze, like this man can’t be president,” said O’Sullivan. “The whole thing is just kind of sad.”
O’Sullivan may be in the minority, according to a recent poll by The Public’s Radio, The Providence Journal and ABC6. The survey found most Rhode Islanders don’t want to see Trump impeached immediately. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they want more investigation before making a decision on impeachment. About 41 percent oppose impeachment.
Even many voters who are unhappy with the President think impeachment is a bad idea.
“You get what you vote for,” said Chris Carroll of Providence, who took part in the poll. “He’s a business man, not a politician.”
Sitting in a Dunkin Donuts near his home, Carroll said he didn’t vote for Trump. In fact, he’s embarrassed by the president. But he said he has no sympathy for people who want Trump impeached.
“They don’t want to hear anything Trump unless it’s impeach,” said Carroll. “But what are the ramifications of getting him out? And that’s what they don’t want to hear.”
The ramification Carroll is worried about is Vice President Mike Pence, the next in line for the presidency if Trump couldn't complete his term.
“If Pence becomes President, now we have all these lobbyists stepping up, willing and able to pay their way to have control of this next president,” said Carroll. “I don’t feel he’s mentally strong enough to fight them off.”
Carroll said he believes Trump, for all his flaws, is not under the thumb of lobbyists. Why?
“He doesn’t need the money. So what are you going to bribe him with?”
Other people who worry about a Pence presidency express concerns about the vice president's conservative positions on issues like abortion.
According to the poll, only 20 percent of Rhode Islanders surveyed want Congress to vote as soon as possible to impeach the president.
Saunderstown resident Matt Smith identifies as independent. He says he didn’t vote for either major party candidate in the 2016 presidential election, and he’s no fan of Trump.
“The tweeting, the things he says about people, his immaturity, his narcissism, the list could go on and on and on,” said Smith.
Though Smith is unhappy with Trump’s demeanor, he does credit him with the growing economy.
“I’m not an anti-Trump guy,” said Smith. “I don’t think he’s presidential, he shouldn’t be president.”
But to Smith, tweets and personal style don't amount to impeachable offenses. Plus, Smith said impeachment is bad for the country.
“I think we’re so polarized as a country, I wouldn’t want to have to see the country go through a long process just because I think it would polarize us even more.”
University of Rhode Island Political Scientist Maureen Moakley says unless something criminal comes out about Trump, elected Democrats would be wise to stay away from a divisive impeachment process.
“The Democrats are not going to recapture the middle class by talking about impeachment. It ain’t going to happen,” said Moakley. “They really have to start talking in one voice about constructive ways to shore up the economy, provide for healthcare. All those issues in the end people care about.”
And any impeachment proceedings would require Democrats to get support from Republicans, or regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in next month's midterm elections.