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Middletown, USA Getting by in middle america

At the beginning of this year the federal government was shut down for the longest period in United States history.

Federal employees were not being paid and many lined up at food kitchens to feed their families. It was not a punch line in a joke about dysfunctional bureaucracy. Government was closed as part of a political debate between the two major parties. Neither side was willing to give in, because giving in would mean losing an edge in the next election. The rest of us were bargaining chips for the power players who are chauffeured around Washington in big black cars driven by armed guards on our dime.

There is a sense in middle America that Washington can no longer be looked to - or relied on - as a positive force.

The 2016 presidential election rejected the establishment and installed Donald Trump. He promised to run things professionally like a business. There was plenty of evidence to suggest Trump was not the man to do so, but his election was the clearest signal the voters could possibly send that they had given up hope on their own government. In a way, voters were saying it doesn't really matter who is in charge. Washington has never helped me.

But there is always hope.

Efforts to exclude certain groups from the American experience ignores who we already are as a nation.

President Trump has set the stage for candidates in 2020 to win by proposing real solutions and pledging to carry them out if elected. Trump promised that only he could fix the system he knew so well. But he didn't even know where to begin and instead has placed all his efforts into dividing the nation - as a political strategy - to hold power with the support of less than fifty-precent of the voters in the right combination of states.

As a result, trust in government is at a low point. From such a low point even modest forward movement can look like great success. It is always good in life to follow failure. The next president can achieve greatness through mediocre competence, because he or she will be following President Trump.

And out in middle America, average people, just trying to get by against the every day challenges of life, are waiting, but not counting on what is next.

For working Americans, just getting to the end of the day is a challenge. The gap between a median middle class salary and the super-rich, who have a major influence on what comes out of Washington, continues to grow.

Will these inequities lead people to sit out the next election, or will demand for change lead to a revolution at the polls?

If the election of Donald Trump was a desperate gamble, where does the average American go next? Middletown, USA knows not to expect greatness, but voters would like someone in Washington to just do their job, because it is what is expected of them each day.

It's a minimum requirement for America to work. Everyone has to pitch in. Everyone has to do their part.

Photos: Middletown, CT. Population: 46,000. Median income: $47,000

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© Dean Pagani 2019

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