The Politics of Gloom: Suburban Women Voice Concerns

Earlier this week, 10 women from across the country met on Zoom and spoke for two hours in a politics panel. All of the women were whit...


Earlier this week, 10 women from across the country met on Zoom and spoke for two hours in a politics panel. All of the women were white, lived in the suburbs, and had been identified as swing voters. One was a mother from Iowa who owns a small business. Another teaches special education in Florida. And there was a school bus driver from Pennsylvania.

The session was sponsored by several liberal groups who invited us to tune in but asked us not to identify participants or organizations. They cited the need to protect the privacy of participants and to separate the views of the focus group from those of the sponsoring organizations.

The women first answered a question about how things were going in the country. The most optimistic answer might have been “uncertain”. The others shared that they were “nervous”, “worried”, “frustrated” and “irritated”.

The Florida teacher explained that she was struggling to pay her medical bills for her cancer treatment. “I thought I was ahead but I keep falling behind,” she said. One of them recently separated from her spouse to find out how seriously Covid should be taken. One devotes an entire day every weekend to shopping, in order to save money on gas.

“It was the worst moment,” said an education consultant in Pennsylvania. “I can’t believe we’re going through this.”

This focus group of 10 women is a grain of sand on the beach that is the American electorate. But they provide a window into widespread gloom that helps explain why some voters doubt the Biden administration can deliver on its promise to return their lives to normal. These women are consumed with the problems that the federal government has said it wants to solve, but they seem to believe that the government does not have the power to solve them.

Focus groups are just one data point in the run-up to an election. A professional mediator guides the group’s discussion, with the aim of revealing perspectives that aren’t typically captured in polls, which is a much more scripted and fast-paced interaction.

Focus groups can provide anecdotes to explain polling trends, and organizers tend to group voters based on their demographics. The organizer of this focus group organizes sessions with several demographic groups; the one we were invited to this week turned out to be centered on the opinions of white women. The participants were identified as swing voters because they had expressed doubts about their past votes – some of the women had voted for Donald Trump, while others had voted for President Biden.

Democrats need the support of suburban women if they are to keep their House and Senate majorities in November. The women in the focus group didn’t necessarily like Biden. They supported the infrastructure law and opposed measures that restrict access to voting. They applauded Biden for his hot mic moment — the one where he mumbled a disparaging remark about a Fox News reporter. They didn’t like Trump and were disgusted with those who attacked the Capitol on January 6.

Despite all that, they weren’t eager to vote for the Democrats in the midterm elections in November.

“I can’t really be hopeful for 2022 coming up,” said a Tennessee woman who works for a professional wrestling company. “So they don’t give me any kind of ambition to feel that I have any kind of trust in the government to fix things or at least get the ball rolling in the right direction.”

Democrats know they must campaign on their achievements to preserve their majorities. Biden himself suggested he should do a better job of telling voters what his administration and Democrats in Congress have been doing. But, as these women made clear, it’s not enough to talk to voters. Democrats also need to make sure voters feel the effects of their efforts.

“It’s absolutely critical that on Election Day these suburban women look to Washington and see it as a place that can get things done,” said Meredith Kelly, a Democratic strategist.

The women in the focus group were unaware that the moderator guiding the discussion was a Democrat or that the sponsors were liberal organizations. All they knew before logging on was that they would be watched, but they didn’t know by whom. Some of them refused to answer a few questions, saying they were not informed enough to form an opinion. And some of them said they generally avoid talking about politics.

When asked how they saw their role in the midterm elections, they laughed. “Suction cups,” replied one mother from Arizona. “We are this automated laughter reel,” one Utah woman joked.

They saw Washington more as a playground than a place where problems are solved.

“At the end of the day, you have to learn to play together in the sandbox,” said one Georgian interior designer, lamenting the bickering between politicians.

Regarding the infrastructure law, some of the women agreed that Democrats had included non-essentials that had nothing to do with roads or bridges. But they also thought Republicans should have voted to pass it anyway.

“We need it, so whatever is pushed in there at this point, take it,” the Georgian woman said.

They generally agreed that Biden stood out from other politicians for being “empathetic.” But even though they believed Biden had wanted to make a difference, they didn’t think he was an exception to the rule. They seemed to doubt that a politician could solve the country’s biggest problems.

Women said corporations and wealthier Americans hold the most power, not politicians. But they didn’t think the government could do anything to make companies pay their fair share — those companies always find loopholes, they argued.

After two hours venting their frustrations, they concluded the conversation with an excoriation of the rioters who stormed the Capitol.

“How did we let it get so bad?” asked the woman in Utah.

With that, the moderator told them their time was up. She asked them to type their final thoughts before logging off. One immediately left the call, while the others took a moment to say goodbye. The Florida teacher, who has spoken about battling cancer, was the latest to sign.

“Thank you,” she told the host. “I got a lot out of it.”

the old guy

Remember those old ads in which a giant, smiling Kool-Aid pitcher interrupts a baseball game or a wedding, bursting through a wall to share the joy of a sugary drink?

From the perspective of the Republican establishment, the role of the Kool-Aid Man was played this week by the former president, who crushed the proverbial party in two states: Georgia and New Hampshire.

In Georgia, Trump cut his first commercial in front of the camera for a candidate, David Perdue. At Trump’s request, the former senator is challenging Brian Kemp, the incumbent governor, in the upcoming Republican primary.

“The Democrats marched all over Brian Kemp,” Trump said in the ad. “Brian Kemp let us down. We cannot let this happen again. »

It’s an allusion to Trump’s false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him in Georgia, and another way to express his anger that Kemp refused to follow his efforts to overturn the vote. The Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia is investigate trump for seeking to improperly influence the outcome of this election.

“While President Trump has brought jobs in from overseas, David Perdue has made a career outsourcing them to China, Mexico and other countries,” Kemp campaign spokesman Cody Hall told AFP. About the ad. “It’s not America First – it’s David Perdue filling his own wallet on the backs of hard-working Americans.”

As for New Hampshire, Trump’s on-and-off political lieutenant Corey Lewandowski told a conservative radio host that the former president had empowered him to find a primary challenger for the state’s moderate Republican governor.

“The president is very unhappy with New Hampshire State Chief Executive Chris Sununu,” Lewandowski told Howie Carr, a Boston-area radio personality. “And Sununu, in the opinion of the president, is someone who has never been loyal to him. And the president said it would be really nice if someone ran against Chris Sununu.

A Sununu spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. But Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, had a lot to say about Trump’s intervention.

“This is another outrageous example of Trump’s cancel culture that will do nothing but help elect more Democrats,” Hogan said. He added: “If we double down on failure and focus on the former president’s strange personal grievances, then we will deserve the result.”

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Something you want to see more? We would love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The Politics of Gloom: Suburban Women Voice Concerns
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