What voters think of the Jan. 6 hearings in a California battleground

Before the House committee investigating the January 6 riot called a single witness, Amador Martinez had seen enough.

“It’s up to him,” he said of former President Trump, who capped his efforts to overturn the 2020 election by unleashing an angry and vengeful mob on the Capitol. “One hundred and ten percent.”

Melody Douglas too made up her mind long before the first prime-time television hearing opened.

“It’s a sham,” she said of the committee and its work. “It’s just an attempt to make Trump look bad. Hopefully he keeps his head up.”

The Special Committee of Inquiry into the Jan. 6 attack on the United States Capitol, as the body is known, has delivered a compelling report on a power-mad president and the crises his ego and insecurities imposed on the country.

His eight-episode public hearings have drawn millions of viewers, made strong arguments for Trump’s prosecution, and illustrated in garish detail — F-bombs, thrown dishes, abuse of Secret Service agents — the president’s pathology and hissing convulsions.

What the hearings don’t seem to have done, at least so far, is that many have changed their minds or changed the way voters appear to be approaching November’s midterm elections.

For Caitlyn Miller, the committee’s findings merely reinforce what she had believed all along, that Trump has done nothing to stop the violence and is likely to get away with his dirty behavior, along with Republicans who back and support his attempted coup to have.

“It’s kind of annoying to listen and see and read how s— everyone was,” said Miller, 30, an office worker in Modesto, “and then think nobody’s going to be blamed.”

Her focus in this election is on other issues where the Democrat believes her vote could make a difference: climate change, abortion rights and making sure the Supreme Court doesn’t roll back on other personal freedoms like same-sex marriage.

“I do Not want Republicans to be in control,” Miller said firmly, holding out her arms as if she could personally push House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy away from the speakership.

Modesto Democrat Caitlyn Miller

Democrat Caitlyn Miller said the Jan. 6 hearings reinforced her belief that President Trump acted irresponsibly.

(Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)

There are relatively few house races nationwide that are true toss-ups; maybe three dozen or so.

One of them is here in the Central Valley, where Democrat Adam Gray and Republican John Duarte are vying to represent a newly created district stretching south from the outskirts of the Bay Area.

The 13th congressional district is mostly rural – dual carriageways, farms, pastures, endless orchards – save for a bit of Modesto, its neighbor Ceres, and Turlock.

With the temperature topping 100 degrees this week and the sky speckled with smoke from another Yosemite wildfire, action by Washington lawmakers seemed a long way off. In interviews across the district, voters talked about inflation, drought, homelessness, water, the resurgence of COVID-19, and high gas prices in particular.

“A lot of other things are happening in the world,” said Sharon D., a 50-year-old Trump voter and a psychiatrist at Ceres, who called the investigation into the Jan. 6 violence and its roots a waste of time and money. (She asked not to give her last name to avoid harassment.) “No one cares anymore.”

Barring dramatic changes after the committee hearings resume in September, the insurgency is unlikely to play a major role in deciding who wins the open Congress seat.

Democrats commended Gray, a 44-year-old congressman, for his work in Sacramento. Republicans said Duarte, a 55-year-old farmer who also helps run a family-owned tree nursery, is a perfect fit for this agriculture-dependent district.

Most people were like Douglas and Martinez who didn’t associate January 6th with local competition and don’t let themselves be swayed no matter what the committee finds.

Douglas, a 60-year-old Republican housewife in Empire, thinks Trump is “the best president we’ve had in a while” and hopes he runs again in 2024.

Empire Republican Melody Douglas

Republican Melody Douglas called the hearings a “sham” to harm Trump.

(Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)

She firmly believes the 2020 election was stolen and the rioters who overran the Capitol were covert leftists looking to incriminate the former president. Nothing and nobody – certainly not the Democrats and two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kitzinger, on the committee – can convince them otherwise.

In fact, she didn’t bother to follow a minute of the hearings, Douglas said, and why would she? In their eyes, everyone in Washington is corrupt and needs to go.

“Start again with honest people,” said Douglas, “like back in 1776.”

Martinez, who stopped by the Ceres post office shortly after Douglas left, had a word for people like her. “I think they were manipulated,” he said.

“I knew something was wrong when Trump said he could kill someone on Main Street and get away with it,” Martinez continued. (Actually, Trump said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, which he would no doubt do to some of his more fanatical supporters.) “I was like, ‘Oh my God. It’s bad.'”

The 55-year-old landscape contractor, a Ceres Democrat, said he’s been following the hearings closely and believes it’s every citizen’s duty to do so.

“We need people to take responsibility,” Martinez said of the attack on the Capitol and even more so on democracy itself.

Ceres Democrat Amador Martinez

Ceres Democrat Amador Martinez says it is the duty of every citizen to follow the hearings.

(Mark Z. Barabak / Los Angeles Times)

In a red-versus-blue world where some refuse to acknowledge even basic facts, it’s hardly surprising to find partisans digging into their positions or ignoring evidence that contradicts what they choose to believe.

But commitment and persuasion are only two measures of the committee’s success, and hardly the most important.

A president has shamelessly abused his power, persuading his supporters not only to invade the Capitol, but to besiege one of the country’s most important and sacred principles, the peaceful transfer of power.

He continues to lie about it and needs to be held accountable.

Gail Tallman paused outside the public library in Patterson, a small farming town, to express her support for the Jan. 6 hearings.

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Central Valley voters discuss January 6 and their key issues in November’s midterm elections.

“I’ve seen every one of them,” said the 66-year-old elementary school teacher, a veteran of the Democrats and the Navy. “It actually made me even angrier.”

Regardless of TV ratings, the number of people getting away with a different perspective, or the outcome of the valley’s hard-fought congressional campaign, Tallman succinctly summed up why the hearings are so vital.

No one, she said, is above the law.

Terry Castleman, a Times contributor, contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-07-28/jan-6-hearings-reinforce-views-in-california-battleground What voters think of the Jan. 6 hearings in a California battleground

Alley Einstein

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