Two years into Donald Trump’s term, North Shore voters remain divided, not only on how the president has addressed the important issues facing the country, but what those issues are.
Democrats have given the president a failing grade, saying he has mishandled or ignored opportunities to confront climate change and income inequality.
Republicans, meanwhile point to a strong economy and promises to seal the country’s southern border as evidence Trump deserves a second term.
The dissonance comes as the Democratic field of presidential candidates grows seemingly by the day. Almost two dozen men and women are jockeying for campaign cash and operatives, with the Feb. 3, 2020, Iowa caucuses still months away.
“There is only one candidate that is going to get elected right now the way things are,” said Peabody resident and independent voter Russell Donovan, 70. “Unless he shoots himself in the foot, it will be Trump. The Democrats can spin their wheels all they want and they will be spinning too many wheels.”
Issues such as climate change, health care and education are important to Therese Melden, 60, an independent voter from Manchester.
“Everything else falls within,” said Melden, co-founder of the nonpartisan initiative We Are America the Beautiful, an effort to build community and provide factual information about the issues of the day through talks with experts and dinner gatherings.
Melden says the world is finally recognizing the need for something like the Green New Deal pushed by first-term Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The resolution aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move to an economy based on sustainable energy by 2030. Proponents say these solutions could also help solve income and other forms of inequality.
“Climate affects our health. It affects jobs. It affects immigration ... In order for us to be sustainable and not be dependent on countries like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia for oil,” Melden said.
Immigration is on Donovan’s mind as well, but for a different reason.
“Right now, unfortunately, Congress won’t work with the president and the president is adamant with protecting our borders and our sovereignty and he’s right,” the retired General Electric employee said. “We have a porous wall. We have a porous border and everybody in New England can see that, and I think it’s a national issue that is not going to change. There is no ifs, ands or buts.”
Donovan said the economy will drive people to the polls in 2020.
“Trump, as he does in his inimitable way, says ‘I brought jobs to the United States. I’m bringing jobs back,” Donovan said. “And people see it in their paychecks that they now are working. It might be people have a full-time job instead of two part-time jobs with no benefits.”
Democrat Shirley Raynard, 77, of Middleton, said economy will bring out the vote — as citizens move to correct decades of economic inequality.
“The haves are doing very well,” the former director of the Flint Public Library said. “The have-nots are doing very poor, and the middle class is getting squeezed between them.”
Health care a priority
One area Democrats and Republicans agree is the need for health care reform. They are far apart, however, on how to address the issue.
Donovan said insurance should not be the paramount issue; rather, it should be the cost of health care. He questions why drug companies are allowed to advertise expensive drugs to the general public, driving up the cost of the medications.
Donovan said solutions such as Medicare for All — a proposal favored by some progressive Democrats like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont that would to extend the national health insurance program for seniors to everyone — will be a topic of debate in 2020, but he does not have a solution of his own in mind. He said no one presidential candidate has a solution. It’s something that will have to be worked out among politicians.
“I hope he (Trump) comes out and does attack health care again, because when he does, people get put up in arms, especially the Republicans,” Raynard said. “The last time he attacked it, god, the Republican congressmen and senators, they didn’t even go to town meetings anymore because they were being attacked about not voting for” Obamacare.
Raynard said it is ridiculous that an industrialized nation in the Western hemisphere does not offer its citizens greater access to health care.
“It’s important because so many people have to make choices,” she said, “whether they get good health care, preventive health care is my issue.”
Health care is an issue for Peabody Democrat Mike Schulze, who is battling cancer. Schulze wonders how Republicans can label government health care as “socialist” when many people do not have access to health care and health care companies make huge profits while closing hospitals.
“We don’t have the best health care in the world,” Schulze said. “We do have the most expensive health care in the world.”
The top issue
For most Democrats, however, there is one clear goal in 2020.
“The issue on the Democratic side is to get rid of Trump,” said Schulze, who served three times as the chairman of the Democratic City Committee and ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 1994. He worked on behalf of John Kerry in his various runs for various offices in 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2000 “and never lost the city for him.” Schulze was twice a national delegate, in 1984 and 2004.
Democrats have their own issues they are trying to bring forward, he said, but infighting among progressives and party moderates may be harmful to their chances.
“If they don’t stop hacking themselves to death, I think they will still win, but they have got to get their act together,” Schulze said.
Melden said her opinion differs from most — she likes having a lot of different faces out there so she can see what they have to offer.
“The field is wide open,” she said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has experience and ability, said Raynard, who also likes the energy of some of the younger candidates.
“What scares me about the whole thing is Bernie Sanders,” she said. “Bernie Sanders cost the Democrats the election last time. He really did, because the people who were for him didn’t go and vote, and he wasn’t pushing them to vote (for Hillary Clinton), either.”
Raynard said she’d like U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to remain as the Massachusetts senator, “and I want Seth Moulton to be the congressman from the 6th District. I don’t want either one of them to be president.”
Melden, however, is leaning toward Warren, who she thinks will surround herself with good advisers.
“I’ll look at everybody, but I mean I will tend to lean more toward the Democratic candidates because they share my values,” Melden said.
Schulze, who backed Sanders in 2016, is having trouble deciding.
“Right now I’m Biden, Bernie and (Pete) Buttigieg,” said Schulze, the latter being the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Schulze favored Biden before he officially announced. Schulze also spoke in April before Moulton had officially kicked off his campaign for president.
“I would look at him,” said Schulze, due to Moulton’s foreign policy chops. “He’s a very bright person. Harvard. He’s a veteran. Veteran means a lot to me.”
Donovan says the large field will hurt the Democrats come November 2020.
“Whoever comes out of that is going to be all bloodied,” Donovan said.