- - Thursday, January 30, 2020

Americans cherish their freedoms, and none is more jealously guarded than the right to choose their president. Though an election is coming up in nine months to determine whether Donald Trump remains in the White House or is succeeded by a new national leader, Democrats want to thwart that choice by booting the president from office prematurely. Congressional impeachment pomp may be on full display in Washington, but will it play in Peoria? So far, it doesn’t look promising.

A Gallup poll in December asked respondents to name, off the top of their heads, “the most important problem facing the country today.” Government led the list, named by 27 percent. Immigration was distant second at 18 percent. Race relations and health care were tied for third with a meager 6 percent each.

With impeachment topping the news cycle for months, it would be easy to conclude that partisan sniping over the Democrats’ attempt to oust the president is the specific government-related issue giving Americans heartburn. However, Gallup reports that respondents have repeated the same primary concern for three straight years — long before the current impeachment drama materialized.

When Gallup asked respondents to choose from a list of concerns “extremely important” to their vote for president in 2020 — issues that did not include the broad topic of “government” — a batch of conventional issues emerged that have little to do with impeachment. Health care led the list at 35 percent. Terrorism and national security, and gun policy followed at 34 percent each. Education was checked off by 33 percent and the economy at 30 percent rounded out the top five.

Neither Gallup nor the polling firm’s respondents zeroed in on impeachment as an issue of critical importance. If it is “hiding in plain sight,” where Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chief impeachment manager, insisted the imaginary Trump-Russia collusion evidence could be found, it’s news to most Americans.

Americans may be quietly fretting over the endless bickering manifested in disturbed never-Trumpers denouncing friends and family members who voted for the president and refuse to apologize for it. And the critical impeachment issue of whether Joe and Hunter Biden’s gas company dealings were proper predication for Mr. Trump to ask his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate is a perplexing addition to the political argument.

With families to raise and bills to pay, though, few can spare the time to follow hour after hour of televised coverage of the president’s ongoing trial underway in the U.S. Senate. Fewer still can draw satisfaction at the sight of persistent political warfare that has transformed the nation’s capital into an ideologically divided no man’s land.

To be sure, support for Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal from office has waxed and waned since congressional hearings opened in the U.S. House of Representatives in September. Then, respondents wanting the president gone outscored those insisting that he remain in the Oval Office 48.3 percent to 43.7 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average of eight national polls.

Public opinion reached a crossroads on Dec. 12, when the House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, nattered away the day and half the night over two articles of impeachment. Except for a quick blip two days later, polls have shown “stay” and “go” either tied or favoring the president remaining in office.

With last week’s start of the Senate impeachment trial, support for the president turned north, with support for Mr. Trump beating opposition 48.3 percent to 47.2 percent before tightening again. It shouldn’t surprise. The spectacle of the wide-eyed Mr. Schiff alternately imploring and browbeating senators to buy into his dark interpretation of the president’s handling of U.S. relations with Ukraine was both creepy and monotonous.

Consequently, Americans voted with their TV remotes: Out of a nation of 329 million, only about 11 million turned on Day 1 of the Senate proceedings, according to ratings aggregator Nielsen, about the same number of viewers who tune in to something called “New Amsterdam” on NBC. Viewership fell to around 9 million on Day 2.

The president’s adversaries may interpret Americans’ concern over government as thumbs-up for impeachment, but it’s more likely they are turning thumbs-down on relentless political upheaval that is disturbing the peace. Americans, not the Senate, should decide whether the president stays or goes — at the ballot box in November.

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