Months After The Election, Citizen Frustration With Politicians Continues
February 12th, 2013
The election is over. From Lincoln to Washington D.C., new lawmakers have been sworn in and are in office. But one thing doesnâ€™t seem to have changed, and that is citizen frustration with politics and politicians. Last year we heard this frequently from Nebraskans recording their thoughts for our Voter Voices project. Mike Tobias recently talked with some of the people who participated in Voter Voices last year to see what theyâ€™re thinking today.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/1-12-13.mp3]
Carlos Barcenas, Levern Hauptmann, Marlene Fey and Patrick Wright share little in common. They live in rural and urban areas. They are young and old. They are students, workers and retirees. They were Obama supporters and Romney supporters. But they do share some common feelings.
â€œI really think we have taken a wrong turn.â€ –Carlos Barcenas
â€œOur government is in a sorry state of affairs.â€ –Levern Hauptmann
â€œFrom what I see, the countryâ€™s not moving forward.â€ –Marlene Fey
â€œPolitically, I think the country is frustrated.â€ –Patrick Wright
Last year these four Nebraskans were among dozens from throughout the state who visited local libraries and recorded their thoughts on election issues for the NET News Voter Voices project. We caught up with these four to find out how they feel now about issues, politics and government after the election, after government bodies are back in session and after the fiscal cliff crisis, Superstorm Sandy and the Newtown shootings.
â€œIâ€™m really having a hard time looking at how and when itâ€™s going to get better,â€ said Barcenas, executive director of a multicultural coalition in Grand Island.
Barcenas said he was disappointed in the direction of the presidential campaign, with not enough attention on the tougher aspects of issues. He said that continues now, in the wake of the Newtown school shootings, with the focus on gun control.
â€œI think weâ€™re missing the point, for example, on the issue,â€ Barcenas said. â€œItâ€™s not guns. I know itâ€™s a broader statement, but thatâ€™s not the issue. We really have to work on the mental health and the emotional health of our communities because there are some bad people out there.â€
Barcenas doesnâ€™t blame everything on elected officials.
â€œI would say one of the things that we still need to work on is getting people out and getting them the opportunity to get their voice to be heard, and their questions to be heard and answered as well,â€ Barcenas added.
Levern Hauptmann is a retired teacher and farmer in Neligh who says heâ€™s slightly more optimistic about government now than last year. But that is only because his preferred presidential candidate, Barack Obama, was victorious. He still didnâ€™t like what all the candidates were talking about during the election, things he believes still arenâ€™t being addressed in a thoughtful manner.
â€œThere was not enough talk about the actual amount of money that was going to have to be raised to keep even the current level that we have of spending on like for the old folks, which we do fairly well with like me,â€ Hauptmann said. â€œBut we donâ€™t spend enough money on especially education and on the kids.â€
Marlene Fey and her husband are retired farmers from Nebraska City.
â€œ(Iâ€™m) not any more optimistic about whatâ€™s happening than I was when I recorded that in the last year,â€ Fey said.
She and her husband are retired farmers from Nebraska City. A hardcore Republican, Fey said she was â€œpretty down in the dumpsâ€ about the results of the presidential race.
â€œI really feel like since heâ€™s been elected, the only thing that he talks about is immigration and possibly gun control,â€ Fey said. â€œOtherwise, I donâ€™t think heâ€™s actually moved ahead and done anything; he certainly doesnâ€™t have a budget set. He wants to continue to just spend, spend, spend, and Iâ€™ve never heard of a business that has been run on no budget.â€
Fey is also disappointed with her own party.
â€œI think people need to pay more attention to whatâ€™s going on,â€ Fey added, â€œand I think we got to get some Republicans that stand up and mean what they say.â€
â€œUsually after an election is kind of a honeymoon effect, even after a second term where people feel relieved that itâ€™s over, put the rancor of the campaign behind them,â€ said Jan Vermeer, a veteran political observer and political science professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University. â€œBut this time around, there was the fiscal cliff discussion. There are other kinds of recriminations that the Republicans were giving each other. I didnâ€™t get the sense that thereâ€™s the same kind of air of good feelings in the months after the November election as in past years.â€
Vermeer said while post-election public opinion may be harsher now than most years, the trend in this direction may have started with partisan conflict between a Republican House of Representatives and Democratic president in 1994.
â€œAnd the division just became sharper and sharper,â€ Vermeer said. â€œWe donâ€™t know how far up the slope weâ€™re going on this pendulum cycle. Sure, there will be a peak. Whether the peak is close by or not, itâ€™s hard to say.â€
Patrick Wright hopes the pendulum will soon swing in a different direction.
â€œEspecially with Congress not being able to really get much passed because itâ€™s just so partisan right now between both sides. It leaves the country pretty frustrated, really,â€ said Wright, a Broken Bow native and freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who voted for the first time last fall.
â€œI think one thing thatâ€™s going to have to change is Congress is going to have to actually start making some decisions,â€ Wright added. â€œBecause what weâ€™ve seen them do in this past year is kind of just push everything off, like raising the debt ceiling. I think eventually theyâ€™re going to have to start making decisions. Itâ€™s not going be pretty either way, but itâ€™s something theyâ€™ve got to do.â€
Thatâ€™s likely one more thing our four Voter Voices participants can agree on.
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