The town hall that impeachment blew up

One of Representative Mikie Sherrill’s district directors began the town hall in a filled community center Monday night with her customary call for civility. Hanover Township Boy Scout Troop 155 led the crowd in the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. An elementary school teacher sang a rousing national anthem. Everybody clapped and then sat down together in rows and rows of plastic folding chairs. Then came the first question.

“We sent you to Washington,” a woman began, “to get work done, for us and for our country, and it appears that for the last couple years all that has been going on is investigations.” Sitting in the front, I could almost feel people’s shoulders tense up. Everybody knew what was coming. The towheaded scouts had filed to the back. The adults had the floor now. And impeachment was in the air. “We honestly,” the woman continued, “can’t trust Adam Schiff …”

Over the course of an hour and a half, Sherrill was asked about vaping, anti-Semitism, federal spending, the national debt, state and local taxes, and even her book recommendations for children ( To Kill a Mockingbird). But the conversation kept coming back to an overarching theme. One of the Boy Scouts squeaked out a plea for Republicans and Democrats to stop the “fighting.” He wondered what she might be able to do to make it stop. One woman, recently retired, gave a sort of rambling confessional about how scared she is, worrying out loud whether her son, daughter and grandson are going to be OK. Whether anybody is. “What’s going to happen to all of us?” she said. “What’s going to happen to our government? To our country?” Monday night at the Hanover Township Community Center was, in sum, a raw, unsettling, ground-level manifestation of the living-on-different-planets tenor of the impeachment hearings of the past two weeks and, more broadly, the intractably split Congress and nation.

After it was over, people milled about. On the tips of tongues was the first question of the night.