Van Buren, Missouri

6 days before the election
Population: 820
2004 Election: Bush 65%, Kerry 35%, Other 1%
2008 Election: McCain 63%, Obama 34%, Other 3%
(map)

Sharon, Janet, and Shirley of Van Buren, Missouri remind me of my mother and her friends. Warm and generous; independent, thoughtful and opinionated.

They are perhaps the most welcoming and most conservative people we have met on this trip. They share a deep concern for this country and speak of this election, without the hyperbole of the campaigns, as the most critical of their lifetime. And they will vote for John McCain.

My mother discusses the election with the same vigor, she cares deeply for the nation and sees the selection of our next leader as among the most important choices she has made in her 60 some years. She will vote for Barack Obama.

As with most people who take more than a passing interest in us and our subject matter, the Van Buren ladies asked after the consensus as to who of the combatants has the most support. Our sampling of a few hundred people is small, but the only agreement we get is not on a candidate, a plan, or a party. But rather a problem.

To hear it out here, America is in trouble. People are mad as hell at the Wall Street bailout. Mad as hell at the Bush Administration. Mad as hell at NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX. There is a deep distrust of institutions.

And they’re not going to take it anymore. Importantly, I think, Americans haven’t given up on democracy. Although we find our fair share of “I don’t care” and “it won’t matter,” it is counterbalanced–particularly among young people of both political stripes–by an understanding that who our leader is during these unfortunate times, matters.

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