News / USA

Voter Anger Becomes Major Factor in US Elections

U.S. Senator John McCain survived a Republican primary challenge in Arizona on Tuesday.  Senator McCain was the Republican Party's presidential candidate in 2008, but may count himself lucky this year in an election climate that features voters angry with incumbent politicians from both parties. 

2010 is shaping up as the year of the angry voter, and incumbent politicians from both parties are taking notice.

The latest example of voter anger is playing out in New York City over the controversial plan to build a mosque and Islamic center near the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks in lower Manhattan.

What is behind the anger?

The reasons for the anger vary, but much of it is related to the national economy.  High unemployment, a weak housing market and growing pessimism about the future create the kind of frustration that leads to demands for political change in Washington.

Rusty is from Texas, and many things make him angry this year, especially the way President Barack Obama is running the country. He is a member of the Tea Party, which is not a political party, but a movement of grassroots conservatives unhappy with President Obama, the power of the federal government, government spending and the growing national debt.

Mike Harvey is a truck driver from Arizona.  He is angry too and is counting on the Tea Party movement to help elect new members of Congress in the November elections.

"I hope they grow some legs and I hope they get something done before this place turns into Venezuela or Cuba," he said. "They might have health care, but go ask them how they like it.  And I think that if Obama gets his way, he is going to turn this place into Cuba and I do not want to see it."

President Obama's push for health-care and financial reform has also sparked a conservative backlash against the role of the central government in the everyday lives of Americans, says Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown.

"Only two percent of voters think that the government does the right thing almost all of the time.  And only another 16 percent say government does the right thing most of the time.  That is a pretty damning indictment of the government and its ability to do the right thing from the American people," said Brown.

The rise of the Tea Party has also sparked some anger on the left from people who see the movement as racist and intolerant.

This man, who chose not to give his name, argued with Tea Party supporters at a rally in Washington. "And I just do not get what makes the Tea Party tick," he said. "I do not understand it.  They think they are Americans.  They think they are upholding the Constitution, and they are literally suggesting that violent acts be undertaken against the government?"

There is also frustration among Democrats that President Obama has not been able to deliver the kind of change and reform he promised during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Liberal Discontentment

Longtime consumer advocate and four-time independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader tells VOA he is aware of liberal discontent with the president and is considering another run for the White House in two year's time.

"Every day people say, well, we misjudged him, he is disappointing us.  Where is the hope and change?  I think they are focused very much on his similar policies in foreign and military affairs with George W. Bush," he said.

Come November, voters are likely to take out their frustrations about the economy on President Obama and the Democrats who run Congress, says longtime observer Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News.    

"He knows that he and his party are in big, big trouble in the November midterm elections," he said. "They are going to get clobbered.  The real question is, are they clobbered to a sufficient degree that they lose one or both houses of Congress?"

Voter anger has long been a staple of U.S. elections.  Conservative anger against President Bill Clinton helped to fuel the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.  Democrats and independents unhappy with President George W. Bush turned the tables on the Republicans by taking back control of Congress in 2006 and then electing Mr. Obama president in 2008.  

A growing number of political analysts believe voter anger this year could propel Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives and possibly even the Senate, which would have a huge impact on President Obama's ability to govern and pass legislation in Congress during the next two years.

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