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Voter Anger Boils Over - Presidential Hopefuls Feeling the Heat

March 28, 1992

Undated (AP) _ Michigan auto worker Ed Sosnowski shakes his head sadly at the words ″American dream,″ his voice filled with disappointment. ″That’s gone now, but nobody in Washington seems to care much.″

In New Hampshire, jobless Mark West sizes up the government. ″They’re all just cowards,″ he says bitterly. ″They don’t give a damn about me.″ And in New York, college student Cleveland Garrett asks defiantly ″why I should believe any of them - look me in the eye and tell me why.″

In this primary season of discontent, voter anger is flaring among people of all ages, regions and walks of life - and proving a potent and unpredictable force at the polls.

President Bush calls it a ″screwy year.″ And Jerry Brown couldn’t be happier that it is - against all odds, he and his anti-politics campaign are alive in the Democratic presidential race.

Despite a huge lead, Democratic front-runner Bill Clinton has every reason to be worried now that he’s in a head-to-head showdown with Brown. For all his efforts to run as an outsider, this year Clinton may be a little too adept a politician for his own good. Practiced and polished, he leaves many audiences loving what they’ve heard but - wary as they are of politicians - suspicious of the candidate they’ve heard it from.

″I just can’t believe all these promises anymore,″ says 20-year-old Jason Harris of Hartford, Conn., a student at Atlanta’s Morehouse College. ″Some of its sounds so good. But promises always sound good. Most of these guys are just full of it.″

Emotions expressed by dozens of voters interviewed as the primary campaign has unfolded over the past three months range from distress and disenchantment to disaffection and downright disgust.

Some begin crying, telling of lost homes or college funds raided to pay the mortgage. Some become furious at what they view as inaction by Bush or Congress - or both - as the economy has declined, health care costs exploded and hard work brought fewer rewards.

″He’s the zig-zag man,″ Eric Reese, an Army officer from Albany, Ga., says of Bush - the candidate he voted for in 1988. ″He’ll say or do anything to save himself.″

Many angry voters, like Sosnowski, fear that they are letting their children down. They turn their anger on the government.

″This is going to be a generation that hasn’t bettered what our parents gave us,″ says Sosnowski. ″Everyone is now panicked just trying to hold onto what we’ve got, and we’re not getting any help.″

Years of working in New Hampshire’s mills are reflected on Gerard Rheaum’s rugged face and rough hands. Now that he is retired, though, he wonders aloud whether it was worth much.

″Everything is made in Japan,″ says Rheaum. ″We can’t do anything right anymore and all these bums want to do is raise their pay. I wish somebody would please stand up for America.″

Although the reasons for the anger vary, distrust of politicians is a common thread in a state-to-state quilt of angry voter interviews. Among these people, Congress equals contempt and Washington is a dirty word.

″They did nothing,″ Michigan retiree Bob Culhane says of Congress when the savings and loan crisis comes up. ″They always do nothing - except take care of themselves. I’d like to replace the whole damn Congress.″

Randy Sedler moved from Toledo to Detroit recently, one of the lucky ones who found a job as a production manager at an auto parts plant after his factory shut down.

″Most of my friends weren’t so lucky,″ he says. ″Nobody is doing anything to help the economy. These guys are all just worried about themselves. Who the hell do they think they are?″

One day recently, Clinton and Brown were seated near each other at a New Haven, Conn., campaign stop when Cassandra McCoy spoke of a sacrifice she blamed on the politicians - the death of her son during a spree of inner-city violence.

″Melvin was my only child,″ she said. ″I’m not here for a political thing. I’m not running for president.″

She was trying to deliver a message, one echoed by angry voters everywhere who believe they have been abandoned by the people they’ve sent to city halls, state capitals and faraway Washington: ″We need the mayor, we need the president and we need those folks up in Hartford to come here and give us a hand.″

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