Stunned by ‘childish’ political rancor

Longtime Port Washington voters who compare Republican presidential frontrunners to playground bullies say they are concerned about fate of the nation

This year’s unusually contentious presidential race, with candidates slinging mud at one another, lying with aplomb and ridiculing one another for everything from their political ideology to their physical appearance and even their wives, has voters in this Republican stronghold shaking their heads.

“It’s like watching kids on a playground,” Linn Woodard said. “If they were playing in my back yard, I’d have sent them home.”

“It’s interesting how we worry about bullying in childhood,” David Franks said. “Look at these politicians bullying each other.”  

Woodard and Franks were among a group of more than a dozen Port Washington area residents who gathered at the Port Senior Center Tuesday to discuss the race for president and politics in general.

It was a diverse and informed group that shared their opinions and lamented the state of affairs in politics, where personality seems to mean more to people than issues and solutions.

“When this first started, I thought, ‘This is kind of silly. This is a joke,’” Woodard said. “But the longer it went on, I started to realize it’s not a joke anymore.

“At this point, I’m stunned. And I’m worried. We have four grandsons, and I think ‘This is the best of the best? What’s going to happen in four years?’”

Sharon Brown noted that recent court decisions now allow big businesses to make large contributions to campaigns.

“It’s not the best person anymore, it’s whoever can raise the most money,” she said.

“The really smart, well-educated people won’t go near politics,” added Paul Michel.

“I wouldn’t have any problem voting for a Democrat,” Louise Mollinger said. “They’re talking about the issues.”

That seems to be beyond the reach of many of the Republican candidates, the group agreed.

“It’s really difficult to try to compare candidates on the issues,” Woodard’s husband Dave said. “They try to avoid saying what they think.”

“The two Democrats running at least have some world experience,” Woodard added.

“If (Republican frontrunner Donald) Trump wasn’t in there, it wouldn’t be that nasty,” Carmella Kacheris said, noting other candidates have tried to respond in kind.

“Can you imagine him negotiating with the heads of state around the world?” Dave Woodard asked. 

“And we’re supposed to be the example for the world,” noted Darlene Brown. “You wonder what they think when they see this.”

“I think this is the nastiest I’ve seen,” Franks said. “There’s something childish going on.”

It all adds up to a process that has left many voters frustrated, the group agreed.

“I’ve heard people say they’re not going to vote,” Beverly Schleg said. “What good does that do?”

The best they can hope for, group members seemed to agree, is a brokered convention where delegates could draft a compromise candidate who is worthy of the nomination.

“I don’t think many people are pleased with Trump or (Democrat Hillary) Clinton,” Charlie Ross said. “I hope (Speaker of the House and Wisconsin Rep.) Paul Ryan steps in.”

Trump’s attraction, Ross added, seems to spring from the fact he throws out ideas people haven’t talked about before.  

If Trump wins his party’s nomination, virtually no one in the group said they would vote for him. And if he won the election?

“Canada,” one person said.

“You have to remember we’ve had incompetent presidents before,” Patrick O’Brien said. “For every President Washington or Lincoln, there were maybe 10 others who were really bad.”

Asked where they think the coarse, nasty political atmosphere began, some pointed to mistreatment of President Barack Obama.

“I think Obama endured a lot of racism as president and things I think are terrible,” Sue Bruner said. “He’s always kept his cool, but we’re a racist country.”

Linn Woodard agreed, noting it was telling that when Obama was elected, the Republican leadership announced their goal was to ensure he was a one-term president and said they would not cooperate with him. 

That lack of statesmanship and adherence to the party line has stymied progress, the group said.

People need to remember that the president isn’t as powerful as many think, Dave Woodard said.

“The president sets the tone, but it’s Congress that makes the laws,” he said. “Without the support of Congress, it doesn’t matter who’s in the top seat.”

The president and lawmakers need to reach across the aisle and work together, the group said, not fight each other in an ideological war.

“We elect them to work together,” O’Brien said. 

“There used to be compromise,” lamented Sharon Brown. “They used to be able to make a deal. Now, all they do is fight. 

“When did that happen?”

Finding someone to resolve that divide is one of the issues that the seniors said matters to them in the election.

Other issues they said they care about are jobs, health insurance, education, Medicare and Social Security.

The group suggested there are a few things that might help the political atmosphere, such as term limits and an update of the election system — getting rid of the electoral college, perhaps. 

“They’re not governing for the long term,” Linn Woodard said. “They’re governing in fear of what will happen in the next election.”

But when asked if they’re hopeful things can change, only one person said yes.

Image information: 

PARTICIPATING IN A discussion at the Port Washington Senior Center Tuesday about the tenor of presidential politics were (from left) David Franks, Louise Mollinger and Sharon Brown.    Photo by Sam Arendt



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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