This Election, Anger And Frustration Aren't Just On The Right

Jan 22, 2016
Originally published on January 22, 2016 8:26 pm

Anger seems to be the dominant emotion during this presidential campaign. The angriest seem to be Republicans — upset with everything from illegal immigration to ISIS to President Obama. Donald Trump has said he is proud to carry that mantle.

But on the left, there's a different kind of frustration, disappointment and dissatisfaction with the political climate that is driving many to Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Recently at the Salem, N.H., field office for the Sanders campaign, volunteers busily worked the phones, contacting registered Democrats and asking whom they intend to support in next month's primary.

Carol Couch, a volunteer for the Sanders campaign, has made many phone calls ("People are tired of them in New Hampshire") and done a lot of walking, going door to door in this southern New Hampshire town. She says she follows her granddaughter's advice when canvassing, "Always say you like their dog."

She says she likes Sanders because he talks about issues important to her — like fairness, or rather, the lack of it. Couch said she is troubled by the "rampant cheating and not caring about other people" that she believes is too prevalent in the nation. "That doesn't sit well with me, because we're all in this together, and that's what Bernie epitomizes to me."

Couch said there might be some anger among Democrats about fairness, and how the deck has been stacked in favor of the 1 percent, but she adds that it's nothing like she has seen from the Republican candidates and their supporters.

"There isn't the vitriol, there isn't the hatred and that I think is frightening," she said. "You don't have any of that from any of the great people I've met volunteering, and certainly not from the senator."

In his stump speech, Sanders addresses the anger among voters. He explains it and says he understands it in a very clear way. It's what's helped him break through against his chief rival, Hillary Clinton.

At a stop in Wolfeboro, N.H., Thursday, Sanders tried to explain that anger. "Why people are so angry is, they're working harder and harder [and] many of them are slipping into poverty. Everyone is worried about the future of their kids."

Sanders says, "People are asking, 'What's going on?' "

Susan Bartlett, who works for the state humanities council, says she has gone back and forth between supporting Sanders and Hillary Clinton. She brought her two college-age kids to hear Sanders speak. She said she is not "angry so much as disappointed and concerned ... for the future for our children and grandchildren, in terms of the income disparity." Bartlett says she is also troubled by racial tensions, which she says "are very much economic-based, as well as deep-seated racial issues."

Wolfeboro resident Doug Smithwood says what he feels this primary season is frustration at the officeholders who can't or won't find solutions to the nation's problems.

"I think everyone's just sick of squabbling," he said. "Nothing gets done, there's so much middle ground for compromise but it's just not in ... politicians' capabilities to compromise. I don't think the American public overall thinks they need to get everything their way."

And that's a lot different than what you hear on the Republican side. That might largely be because there has been a Democrat in control of the White House for the past seven years. So while there is no talk of taking the country back, Democrats have concerns and frustrations, too. And Sanders argues that's something only a political revolution will address.

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Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

During this presidential campaign, we've heard a lot about anger. The angriest seem to be Republicans, who have been speaking out on illegal immigration, ISIS and President Obama. Donald Trump has said he is proud to carry that mantle of anger. On the left, there is a different kind of frustration, a dissatisfaction with the political climate, which is driving the popularity of Bernie Sanders. NPR's Brian Naylor has more.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I was just wondering if you were planning to vote for the Democratic primary...

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: At the Salem, N.H., field office for the Bernie Sanders campaign, volunteers are busily working the phones, contacting registered Democrats and asking who they intend to support in next month's primary. Carol Couch says she's made many such calls and done a lot of walking, going to door to door in this southern New Hampshire town.

CAROL COUCH: As my 9-year-old granddaughter would say, always say you like their dog (laughter).

NAYLOR: I sit down with Couch in a back room of the field office. The 69-year-old retiree is sporting a white Bernie-Sanders-for-president t-shirt. She says she likes Sanders because he talks about issues important to her, like fairness or, rather, the lack of it.

COUCH: Rampant cheating and not caring about other people - that doesn't sit well with me because we're all in this together. And that's what Bernie epitomizes to me.

NAYLOR: Couch says there might be some anger among Democrats about fairness, about how the deck has been stacked in favor of the 1 percent, but nothing like she's seen from the Republican candidates and their supporters.

COUCH: There isn't the vitriol. There isn't the hatred that, I think, is frightening. You don't have any of that from any of the great people I've met volunteering for Bernie, and certainly not from the senator.

NAYLOR: In his stump speech, Sanders does address anger among voters. He explains it and says he understands it in a very clear way. It's what's helped him break through against his chief rival, Hillary Clinton. Here he is in Wolfeboro, N.H., last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: And why people are so angry is they're working harder and harder. Many of them are slipping into poverty. Everyone is worried about the future of their kids.

NAYLOR: People are asking, Sanders says, what's going on?

Susan Bartlett, who works for the state Humanities Council, says she's gone back and forth between supporting Sanders and Hillary Clinton. She brought her two college-age kids to hear Sanders last night and explains her mood this way.

SUSAN BARTLETT: I wouldn't say I'm angry so much as disappointed and concerned and concerned for the future for our children and grandchildren in terms of the income disparity and racial tensions, which I think are very much economic-based as well as, you know, deep-seated racial issues.

NAYLOR: Doug Smithwood from Wolfeboro says what he feels this primary season is frustration - frustration at the office holders who can't or won't find solutions to the nation's problems.

DOUG SMITHWOOD: I think everyone's just sick of squabbling. You know, nothing gets done. There's so much, you know, middle ground for compromise, but it's just not in a number of politicians' capabilities to compromise in getting stuff done. I mean, I don't think the American public overall thinks that they've got to get everything their way.

NAYLOR: And that's a lot different than what you hear on the Republican side. That might largely be because it's been a Democrat in control of the White House for the past seven years. So while there's no talk of taking the country back, Democrats, have concerns and frustrations, too. And Sanders argues that's something only a revolution will address. Brian Naylor, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.