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Opinion | Diane Hessan

Letters from America look back on 2017, forward to 2018

(Globe Staff photo illustration)

OVER THE LAST YEAR, I have been in conversation with 400 voters of all ages, from all 50 states, and from all ends of the political spectrum. Each week, they have shared with me their dreams, frustrations, and perspectives on our country. They have rated President Trump, reflected on everything from Charlottesville to Alabama, and reported on what they have learned in their college classrooms, churches, marches, rallies, and living rooms.

The diversity of America has amazed me. All of us are passionate in our own way. As you’ll see from the viewpoints below, the media have stoked our biases and prejudices and inflamed our differences. But under everything, we are all Americans, and we all, in our own way, love the nation and want it to succeed.

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As the sun rises on 2018, I am more convinced than ever that our country is less divided than our Congress is, even as the fringes are getting the most attention. Most citizens care deeply about the future of our country and about the need for a better life for their children.

Here are some of the hopes and fears they have shared with me for the coming year.

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“My biggest hope for 2018 is the impeachment of Donald Trump a la Nixon. I look forward to him stepping on his helicopter and flying far, far away. My biggest hope is for politicians who put ‘policy over politics’ but that won’t happen until people demand it of their elected representatives. Probably too much to expect, but it’s my hope.” (Molly, Democrat, Georgia)

“My biggest fear is Trump. In some ways, he reminds me of a dictator. I cannot see past his thought process. The Russia issue, the Mueller issue, Jared Kushner, North Korea, and the revolving staff — all within a year of his presidency.” (Betty, independent, Georgia)

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“My biggest political hope is that Trump’s team and their edicts throughout government don’t ruin our physical world for all future generations, and that other countries will not take America’s lead in isolationism and neglect for the environment, but will continue to step forward to lead, and care for the poor, downtrodden, and discriminated against.” (Mark, Democrat, California)

“I hope that Congress gets filled with women and people of color. I fear war, expanding poverty, and irreversible corporate abuses of the environment that have ramifications for our air and water quality, as well as our food system.” (Marla, Democrat, Michigan)

“My fear is that Trump will continue in office and ruin our constitutional democracy and physical world for all time . . . and that this tax bill will only serve to further alienate economic classes in our country and cause unrecoverable damage to the deficit and our economy . . . and that other countries continue to catch and spread the ‘us first and the rest of the world be damned’ virus.” (Frank, Democrat, Washington)

“I am most afraid of our continuing wealth inequality. I know that a few people get welfare by cheating, but I think most people in poverty are suffering greatly, and we cope by ignoring them. It makes me feel embarrassed that we are a country of so much wealth, and that we glorify (and pay) our celebrities and sports stars instead of our teachers — and that we cannot figure out how to permanently help those who cannot make ends meet.” (Nancy, Democrat, Iowa)

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“My biggest hope is always the same, which is that my kids don’t experience the same racism as I have experienced in my life, even this year. I don’t want to walk down the aisles of a store and have all eyes on me, wondering what I am going to steal. I don’t want to drive through a white neighborhood and notice that people are looking at me funny. I don’t want to feel like, after all these years, I am still sitting in the back of the bus. I hate that our president makes it OK to be mean to others, and I hope that the elections in 2018 send him a big, bad message.” (Alex, Democrat, Texas)

“All I want in 2018 is for my family to stay healthy and for my car not to break down. Trump wants to blow up Obamacare and I worry that it will all cost more. I can’t afford any kind of health care if I am sick, because then I can’t work. It is a struggle, but I feel proud that I paid off some loans this year. Of course, I could go big, and hope for peace on earth, but we won’t get that with those damned tweets.” (Debra, Democrat, Nevada)

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“I am looking forward to the tax reform. Especially the inheritance tax. This tax is absurd! Just because someone loses a loved one and they acquire their estate why, why, why do they have to give a large portion to the government? I would like things to get back to normal. If you want money, get a job and work for it. If you don’t like this country, leave it or don’t even come here. I would like to feel a sense of security and safety and not have to look over my shoulder when I walk through a parking lot. I would like the current laws enforced and all sanctuary cities repealed. I am all for immigration, but it needs to be strictly regulated these days. I also would like the Democrats to stop slandering the president and his family when in fact the Clintons and Obama are the ones that need investigating. They have wasted so much time and money on this nonsense.” (Carol, Republican, Pennsylvania)

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“My biggest fear for 2018 is that I’ll continue to feel politically and ideologically homeless. [This year] taught me that even the people who share the same faith as me — something that should unite us toward a common good — hold a vastly different view of what is decent, good, and worth fighting for and how we should go about that. I’ve come to realize that whatever the term ‘evangelical’ has come to mean, it probably doesn’t describe me anymore. I feel like the essence of my Christian faith has never been clearer or stronger, but the Franklin Graham/Jerry Falwell Jr. brand of evangelicalism, the one that has become an arm of the Republican Party, is one I want nothing to do with. It’s been really hard to watch so many people I love and respect — some of the most kind, selfless and generous people I know — buy into the Trump/Bannon narrative of fear and fake news.” (Donald, independent, Wisconsin)

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“I sure hope Congress figures out a way to work together. This tribal thinking is driving me crazy. Figure it out, kids (Mitch, Pelosi, Chuck), or you will be put out to pasture. While I am basically a Trump fan, I sure don’t think he’s without fault! I would love folks who are ‘Never Trumpers’ to give back the stock market gains they have enjoyed in 2017 or give some credit. Find a positive thing about the economy, ISIS, or something. Korea scares the hell out of me. I don’t trust that squatty little man. I confess that I have a few supplies in the basement in the event he decides to do something.” (Tina, Republican, Iowa)

“I’m feeling tired and unappreciated. I work in a small business and struggle for anything that should be given to the employees. . . . Over the last few months I have been acutely aware of people with EBT cards when I’m shopping. I’m so sick and tired of the abuse and expected lifestyle that seems to come with certain ethnicities. ‘Have as many kids as you want, we will take care of them.’ ‘Don’t work, it’s OK, we will pay your rent.’ ‘Go out and buy the best of clothing, it’s on the state of Massachusetts and their exhausted workers.’ That is one of the reasons I voted for Trump, I felt he was pissed off too at the unfairness that has been encouraged and accepted by so many for so many years. Sick and tired of the abuse of benefits for being nothing but lazy and entitled.” (Charlotte, independent, Massachusetts)

“For the country, my greatest hope is that, despite all his ‘clownery,’ Trump and his policies will be productive for the national economy. I hope he will tweet less and succeed more. The fear is that he and the media will keep us distracted, fighting and talking about so many silly things that we either do not succeed or everyone is so confused that they will not see any success.” (Ryan, Republican, Louisiana)

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“For me, it is all about the media. I hope that the media will become more responsible, focusing on truth and credibility rather than viewers and ratings, that the press will be free, but will also be fair.” (Leslie, Republican, Delaware)

“My biggest hope for 2018 is that my wife and I will have another child. Raising my girls well is the most important thing I will ever do. I don’t know what the world will be like 20 years from now, but I hope they will have the character, wisdom, and compassion needed to make it a better place.” (Evan, Republican, Wisconsin)

“Honestly, my biggest hope for 2018 is pretty simple — to make a positive impact on those around me and to spend more time with friends and family. My biggest fear is economic insecurity, or that the political instability in Washington starts to flow over and impact my personal life.” (Jason, Democrat, Massachusetts)

“I want peace on earth, in our families, in Congress, and in the White House. I hope that harassment charges clear out congressional (and presidential) deadwood/dregs, and that they are replaced with moderates from each party to create and model conciliatory discussion.” (Jennifer, Republican, Connecticut)

“My biggest hope is for a stable world of peace first and foremost. How that can actually happen is most likely not possible. But if Trump can salvage his ability to be more in tune worldwide and listen to his advisers maybe there is a small window of hope. With peace comes the financial stability that we all live for in our daily lives. It’s the engine of our existence.” (Arlene, independent, Florida)

“My biggest hope is for peace: Peace in our communities, peace in our nation, and peace in our world. I hope for compassion. We need more of it, it will go a long way in healing our communities, nation, and world. We are all different and this is what makes this world so beautiful. It is also what makes it scary for people. We need to embrace our differences instead of trying to make everyone the same. I hope President Trump stops being so divisive. I hope Democrats work with Republicans and vice versa.” (Kevin, independent, Colorado)

“I fear we won’t have peace . . . that we will continue to divide ourselves and fail to see the beauty of our differences. I fear that 2018 will bring more of the same as 2017. Too much anger, hate and rage. Too much social media, too much TV, too much work. I fear that I will not take enough time to relax and enjoy where we are and not where we are going or need to be. Too much watching the bank account and not going out to dinner for the hell of it or taking a vacation. I fear life will continue to bear down on me and I will fail to stop and take in the beauty of it all and enjoy my family and friends.” (Tom, Republican, Nevada)

“My biggest hope is that more folks will stop looking at their small little mobile phones and large screen [TVs] and begin to look around at the beauty before them. The beautiful little flower that grew between the cracks (blooming for no reason) in the sidewalk. The beautiful sky, just floating by. The touch of baby’s little fingers around your thumb. The smell of a newborn baby! This is my hope that mankind will love the real things around them over their love of money, power, and ego. But my fear is that all the things I mention above will become less and less important.” (Mara, Democrat, North Carolina)

Clarification: The voters in this column were given pseudonyms to protect their identity.


Diane Hessan is an entrepreneur, author, and chair of C Space. She has been in conversation with 400 voters across the political spectrum weekly since last December. Follow her on Twitter @DianeHessan.