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Opinion | Diane Hessan

Voters caught in the crossfire

(Anthony Russo for The Boston Globe)

They are The Estranged.

While Hillary Clinton fans bemoan what they believe to be the insanity and embarrassment of Donald Trump — and while Trump fans don their red T-shirts and insist that the president can do no wrong — there is an emerging group: the Estranged Americans, who are caught in the crossfire, unhappy with their own parties, and wondering where they belong.

As I have reported in my continuing research with voters of all ages, political persuasions, and geographies, many Trump voters are thrilled (“He’s doing exactly what he said he was going to do, and everyone needs to get out of his way”), and many Clinton voters are appalled (“Trump is as narcissistic, insane, and dangerous as I thought he would be”). However, The Estranged are both disappointed in Trump and just as disappointed in the Democratic Party.

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Some of The Estranged voted for Trump. Steve, 42, from Arkansas, wanted to shake things up, and he thought Clinton had “just too much baggage.” As a veteran, he was hopeful about Trump’s commitment to the military and his appointment of serious leaders to the cabinet. Now he’s not so sure.

My last note from Steve said this: “I am officially losing it when it comes to President Trump. Why did I think he was going to change? He seems more obsessed with winning media cycles than in winning anything else, and he just can’t get out of his own way. Just as I don’t want to go to a doctor with a bad bedside manner, I don’t want a president with a lousy one either.”

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being pessimistic and 10 being optimistic, Steve is a 4, especially in light of the recent drama about alleged wiretapping, which Steve says is “downright irresponsible.” Steve, along with others like him, still wants a wall, an improved health care system, less regulation, and a more conservative court, but he is worried about Trump’s constant browbeating of any media that disagree with him, and even more, he is concerned about Trump’s inability to admit mistakes.

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Other Estranged Americans voted for Clinton, such as Janet, 34, from New Hampshire, who was happy with Obamacare and Planned Parenthood and unhappy with Trump’s insults of women and people with disabilities. Although Janet was concerned about Trump’s character, she decided to give him a chance after his first speech to Congress, March 1 — partly because of the president’s optimistic speech and even more because of the Democratic response. Janet says, “I was absolutely appalled that, in the aftermath of Clinton’s defeat, the Democrats insist on having their old guard, like Nancy Pelosi, continue to lead the party. Then, when I saw that the best they could do for a response to Trump’s speech was to have a former governor from Kentucky speak — who lost his election — it struck me that the Democrats are in disarray.”

Adds Janet, “Although I am embarrassed to have Trump as my president, I am optimistic about the economy. The main problem for me is that the Democrats are just flailing, and there is no inspiration or freshness. . . . Just as Hillary held on to Huma (Abedin) for all of those years, I feel that the Democrats are going to be holding on to their old and tired point of view, and now all they do is yell. I am lost.” On a scale of 1-10, Janet is a 5.

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Of the 300 voters I have been tracking weekly, nearly half are frustrated and moving to the middle of the scale, much less enthusiastic about their candidates and their party than before. These estranged citizens want better. Apart from how they voted, these people are beginning to find common ground. They all believe that President Trump has character flaws that are escalating, from the tweets to the media-bashing to the conspiracy theories. They are sick of the side issues, like arguing over whether Trump is playing golf more than Obama did. They want a significantly improved health care system that is not rushed through and that builds upon the lessons we have learned from the past. They are wondering whether it is possible to have a new Democratic party, with fresh faces, that can break the mold, look out for people, and stand for integrity. They are appalled that former interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile sent Town Hall questions to Hillary Clinton, and they are equally appalled that Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, never registered as a foreign agent. And they want everyone — especially Republicans and Democrats in Congress, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, and the media – to stop yelling.

Spring is typically a time of optimism. The air feels warmer, it’s lighter later, March Madness is in full swing, baseball teams are starting to play again, and we’re looking forward to summer. As I hear it, voters from all sides desperately want an improved state of affairs. They want more substance and less posturing. They want more possibility and less gloom. They want more thinking and less winging it. They might even be open to listening to opposing viewpoints. It’s clear that this is the time for our leaders to deliver. The American people deserve better than this.

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Diane Hessan is an entrepreneur, investor, and chairman of C Space.