I recently found myself at an upstate New York dinner table with a bunch of independent voters–a mom, a dad, an aunt, a grandpa, two college students, and two twenty-something cousins. The topic of conversation turned to politics and I quickly learned that they were all disgusted with both parties. They were dissatisfied with President Obama’s leadership, frustrated by congressional inaction, unsure of what the Republican Party stood for these days, and doubtful that anyone in the D.C. political machine was actually listening to them. When asked if they planned on voting in the midterm elections, most of them reluctantly said yes, but weren’t sure their votes would make a difference.
“No matter who gets elected, will anything really change? Doubt it.” That was the sentiment of the night.
Regardless, I wanted to get a feel for what issues those regular, hard-working, middle-income people care about as they gear up to head to the voting booths.
1. Economy. Hands down, everyone cited jobs as their number one. Lowering taxes and keeping more of their hard-earned cash were close behind.
2. Health care costs. While pretty pessimistic about Obamacare, everyone was also pretty irritated by the GOP’s lack of a concrete alternative. An overall dissatisfaction with the health care system was clear.
3. Education. Student loan debt reform, expanding educational options, and improving the public school system were key priorities. Common Core was not popular.
4. Immigration. Border security concerns, national security concerns, and questions about what to do with the illegal immigrants already here came up quite a bit.
The saddest part of the conversation was that the younger people felt the least engaged, the least confident that their votes had any power or that any politician would bring about positive change to the system. I wasn’t surprised to discover a pretty intense distaste for politicians and distrust of the system at large.
That got me thinking.
I remembered 2008 in New York City. I don’t know how Obama did it, but he inspired a lot of people. They believed him. They believed in him. They suddenly felt optimism about reforming the political system. Students were paying attention. Many young people were excited about a new leader and new ideas. Yes, I disagreed with most of Obama’s policies, but his ability to inspire that year was something to be studied. Reagan had a similar skill. It is a skill too rarely seen in the political sphere.
I began to wonder what would happen if charismatic leaders with the ability to inspire were to champion a concrete vision for the issues prioritized by the family I highlighted above. What if those leaders could really talk economic growth, sound policies to create jobs and lower taxes, school choice, border security measures, and a pro-free market health care alternative?
Imagine the possibilities.
Regardless, I can’t deny the palpable dissatisfaction with politics and politicians that people express to me daily from all parts of the country. Politicians who intend to get elected and make a difference this midterm season and beyond, pay attention to the voices like the ones I spoke with above. Pay attention to the issues they care about and the leadership they seek.
If you don’t aim to inspire, step aside and make room for those who do. And if you do, get to work. What are you waiting for?
Jedediah Bila is co-host of “Outnumbered” on Fox News at 12pm ET. She is an author, columnist, and Fox News Contributor. Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila.