On the street, a dose of impeachment indifference

Gina Catinella, 25, of Cambridge shared her views about impeachment.
Gina Catinella, 25, of Cambridge shared her views about impeachment.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

On what would appear to be a historic day — when Donald Trump became just the third US president ever to be impeached — the response of those in Boston might accurately be summed up thusly:


Somewhat shockingly, given the bombastic nature of the man at the center of it all, the most recent presidential scandal might also be the most boring.

There’s been no breaking-and-entering. No parking-garage whistle-blower. No blue dress.

“I, personally, have kind of tuned it out,” said Gina Catinella, 25, of Cambridge, citing the seemingly endless barrage of scandals that have marked Trump’s presidency. “Different day, another incident.”


Historically, there are few things Americans like more than a good political screw-up — just ask Gary Hart or Anthony Weiner.

But unlike the presidential scandals of yore — which left countless Americans glued to their radios or televisions, taking in every twist and turn — this one is just the latest installment of (alleged) misconduct. And it’s all rather blase.

One by one Wednesday, people around the city acknowledged as much, admitting they’ve often missed — or, in some cases, actively avoided — the impeachment proceedings and their various developments.

There was Allan Wright, 66, of Wakefield, who has grown so fatigued by Trump’s inescapable face that he has self-diagnosed himself with Trump Fatigue. “We’ve been bombarded for three years, and we’ve had enough.”

There was the woman in line at The Berry Twist frozen yogurt stand at Faneuil Hall, who was unaware that Wednesday’s impeachment vote was even being held, and Shannon Burke, 28, of Boston, who acknowledged that she hasn’t made much of an effort to seek out the daily developments.

“But at least I know about it, right?” she offered.

Even those who would figure to be inherently interested in the legal aspects of the impeachment have found the latest proceedings something of a yawn.


“I remember the Clinton [impeachment] vividly — the blue dress, how it was something everyone was talking about,” said Luanne Santelises, 42, of Seekonk. “This is more boring — and I’m an attorney.”

To be sure, there are those who consider the day’s developments vitally important; at the start of Wednesday’s House impeachment debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the proceedings as nothing less than a defense of democracy.

But when it comes to high drama, some say, the current case leaves much to be desired.

Impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon riveted the country in the 1970s. But that was a different time and a much different set of circumstances, including the break-in at the Watergate Hotel, missing recordings of presidential conversations, and a mysterious source known as “Deep Throat.” The unfolding Watergate scandal became one of the century’s biggest stories — inspiring a seemingly endless stream of books and movies. Nixon eventually resigned before the House voted on impeachment.

The 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton also had drama — or at least a certain . . . salaciousness that kept the country’s collective attention.

“It drew the natural human interest in sex that maintained people’s interest,” said Frank O. Bowman, III, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Law and author of the book “High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump.”

“With foreign policy, it’s much harder to engage the interest of the average person.”


Indeed, the accusations facing Trump — that he coerced the Ukrainian government into investigating a political rival — aren’t particularly juicy. Even the release earlier this year of the Mueller report seemed to generate more mainstream interest, inspiring everything from watch parties to drinking games (“What to Drink While Reading the Mueller Report,” read a Bloomberg headline).

Unlike past presidential scandals, meanwhile, which offered the promise of new revelations, there is little question that the incident prompting Wednesday’s impeachment occurred.

As Corey Brettschneider, author of “The Oath and The Office: A Guide to the Constitution for Future Presidents,” pointed out, a partial transcript of Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president has been public for months.

“During Nixon, the smoking gun came in the form of the testimony and in the revelation that the tapes existed,” said Brettschneider. “Here, the smoking gun was present from the beginning.

“So in the sense of dramatic arc, it doesn’t have that.”

Greg Nelson, who was visiting Boston from Huntsville, Ala., on Wednesday, had another theory for the apparent lack of mainstream interest.

“I believe it’s a hoax, and I think that people in general believe the same thing,” he said of the effort to remove Trump from office. “And I don’t think anybody wants to watch.”

Given the Houdini-like way in which Trump has managed to escape a barrage of scandals — see: the “Access Hollywood” tape, various allegations of sexual assault, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election — even those actively rooting for his political demise have resigned themselves to the idea that it might never happen.


Despite the House’s vote slated Wednesday to impeach Trump, it is widely expected that the Senate, with a Republican majority, will acquit him when the case goes to trial in 2020.

“People know what the outcome’s going to be,” Santelises said with a shrug. “It’s like, ‘Why get interested in this when you know the president’s going to get away?’”

Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.