Barbershop: Months Later, Voters Update Us On Where They Stand
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for a trip to the Barbershop. That's where we gather a group of interesting folks to talk about what's in the news and what's on our minds. And with Election Day around the corner, we wanted to check back in with our voters in Cleveland and Philadelphia who joined us before the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention, which were held in those cities. Because of schedules, we all got together on Friday.
I was joined by Stacey Polk. She's president of a consulting business. She's a Republican. She joined us from WCPN Ideastream in Cleveland. We also had Amy Hoag, a Democrat and social worker and mom, who lives in New Jersey. Amy was at WHYY in Philadelphia along with Gary Frazier, a community organizer from Camden, N.J. He had been very involved in the Black Men for Bernie group in July, though he changed his party affiliation to Independent from Democrat.
When we got together on Friday, we had all just learned that the FBI was looking at a set of emails that, quote, "appear to be pertinent," unquote, to the larger investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails while she was secretary of state - that according to a letter FBI director James Comey wrote to Congress. So I started by asking Democrat Amy Hoag if the news, so far, had caused her to change her mind about supporting Hillary Clinton.
AMY HOAG: There's nothing to change my mind. I think they're just covering all the bases, and I think they're being thorough. And for that, I appreciate it. It's not the greatest timing, but I do appreciate the fact that they're, you know, being upfront front about it and above the board in checking those emails out.
MARTIN: How do you feel about things so far? Do you feel good about the campaign so far? Do you feel good about the nominee?
HOAG: I do. I feel really good about it, and I'm really looking forward to voting for Hillary and looking forward to really getting to the business of getting her elected and starting the process of the, hopefully, new presidency. So that's what's on my mind right now.
MARTIN: Gary, what about you? As we - when we last met, your candidate, Bernie Sanders, was - you were all in, you know, for Bernie. Who do you support now, now that he didn't win the Democratic nomination?
GARY FRAZIER: Oh, I support the Green Party wholeheartedly, Dr. Jill Stein, the presidential nominee, and of course the vice presidential nominee, Ajamu Baraka.
MARTIN: And I also understand - are you running for office as a Green?
FRAZIER: Yes, I am.
FRAZIER: City council at large.
MARTIN: Tell me why. What's the appeal to you?
FRAZIER: For the Green Party?
FRAZIER: Oh, well, for the Green Party, I mean, if you take a look at the Green Party's platform, it's almost identical to what Bernie Sanders' platform was. And I think it's speaking more to the millennials, more to us as independents. We want to form a government that speaks for, to and by us, and I don't think that Senator Clinton or Donald Trump have delivered that for us, at least on policy, as far as I'm concerned.
MARTIN: OK. Stacey, when we spoke with you in July, we asked if you would support Donald Trump, and you said my vote always has to be earned, and I'm just not there yet. So where are you now?
STACEY POLK: I am a loyal, supportive Republican, and I believe that we have to be everywhere to be heard. I'm a proud African-American who's - and third-generation Republican - and I believe that after having had several meetings with other citizens who were somewhat like myself in their position and they're espousing their support of Donald Trump and how they came about that, that is what allowed me to take another step in his direction. I do believe that he has much to say that is relevant and this is a matter of the adage that says, if you want to keep getting what you're getting, keep doing what you're doing. I believe that he presents reasonable change for this country...
POLK: ...And that the time...
MARTIN: So you're going to vote for him?
POLK: ...To be had is now.
MARTIN: So you're going to vote for him?
POLK: Well, with...
MARTIN: I mean, I can't...
POLK: I believe in this...
MARTIN: I can't - you're not under subpoena here, so I have to say myself...
POLK: I understand this, but...
MARTIN: So it's entirely up to you whether you tell me, but...
POLK: I've expressed...
POLK: ...My - I'm expressing my support.
MARTIN: It's so interesting that, you know, it's just that we've got Gary, who's said, look, you know, the Democrats need to have a reckoning. A lot of Republicans have been having that conversation, too. And, you know, the GOP is very split right now. You've got some high-ranking Republicans say they can never support him, some who did support him and say they no longer do. And then you have people who said they supported him and then they don't support him, claims they didn't and now they're back again. And I just have to ask whether, you know - are you feeling that? I mean, do you think that even though there hasn't been, say, a separate movement or a de-registration movement the way Gary exemplifies on the Democratic side, do you think something similar is going on on the Republican side?
POLK: I would say that there is definitely a parting of the ways within the party. I would like to see efforts at reconciliation. I believe that there's a shaking up of all traditional parties. And we are still, from a global perspective, a young nation, and we are experiencing growing pains. And we must remain alert, vigilant and willing to do what is necessary to keep our greatest democracy on earth intact.
MARTIN: Amy, what about you? I'm going to ask you about this because you told us before the DNC that you were starting to get your kids involved. You were all volunteering for the convention, but this hasn't been exactly a G-rated political season.
HOAG: Not at all.
MARTIN: You know, and I've just - I'm wondering how you are talking to them about this stuff. I have to be honest, I had some difficult conversations with my kids trying to explain some things that they were hearing in the news because I do encourage them to listen to the news. I don't know, how - what's that been like for you?
HOAG: It's difficult, but I just try to use whatever's going on as a teachable moment. And, unfortunately, what's going on, I mean, some of these allegations of the, you know, sexual harassment have come up. And I've had to have, you know, frank discussions with my teenagers, both - you know, I have two boys and a girl - and I've had to be honest with them about what's going on.
And so I've used it just as a platform to, again, you know, help guide them in their life and how to treat people. So that's how I've used it. It's been difficult, but it's part of what's going on, so I feel like I need to address it as a parent.
MARTIN: There is the concern that this behavior is certainly not limited to Donald Trump. I mean, and what we're talking about...
HOAG: Oh, sure.
MARTIN: ...Here is obviously these tapes that just - that - where he was overheard, you know, discussing women in a particularly - in a demeaning way. And yet, you know, people on the Republican side have said, you know, it's not - this behavior's not unknown on the Democratic side. And I wondered whether this has come up. And has that been part...
HOAG: Oh, sure.
MARTIN: ...Of your thoughts? Has that been part of the conversation, too, for you?
HOAG: Sure. And my husband and I have both discussed that, you know, I mean, Bill Clinton himself has not been an example of how to treat women - some of the allegations there either. So I haven't just focused on Donald Trump, although he has come up more recently in more discussions. But I also have used, you know, Bill Clinton's allegations as well.
MARTIN: Gary, you know, what I wanted to ask you is this question of whether you will support the winner or rather you will respect the outcome of the election. When we last spoke this summer, you were pretty disappointed in the Democratic Party and - to the point where you switched parties. But are you prepared to accept the winner of this election no matter who it is?
FRAZIER: You take a look at this two-party system, you know, I mean, it's clear to us. I mean, the facts are there. It's - everything's out there, the two-party system works together as one in my opinion. And every four to eight years, there's a struggle for power for which party is going to enact policies that keep us in the same positions that we are in. So to say that I would accept it, I think, you know, that's a long stretch. It would just - it would simply mean that we have more work to do in the elections coming after that.
MARTIN: Well, I don't mean accept that - I understand what you're saying. I completely - I understand what you're - I think I understand what you're saying. I don't mean accept it in the sense that you accept that this is OK with you. But there are people who are actually threatening to - I'm really not sure what they're threatening - but they're saying they won't accept the outcome. What are you prepared to do?
FRAZIER: Well, we better be - we better get prepared - all of us better get prepared because we don't know how - just how angry some of the American people are on both sides of the fence. So I think, you know, when you say, you know, what are people prepared to do? You know, people are that mad, anything could happen here. I just think that we better stock up on plenty of water and, you know, we better seek shelter because anything could happen, and people are that upset.
MARTIN: Can I ask each of you, before we let you go - and I do - Gary, I am taking what you say seriously. It's just that, you know, time is the one thing they're not making any more of here. But I did want to ask, how do you feel about the country right now? A lot of people are just disgusted and really disgusted at the tone of this campaign, can't wait for it to be over. Some people feel that this has been a moment that has been necessary. It's really kind of caused people to evaluate their first principles. And before we let you go, I just wanted to ask each of you, how do you feel about where things are in the country right now? As briefly as you can, Gary, why don't you start?
FRAZIER: It's just sad. It's just sad. You know, it doesn't shape well for us. You know, where are we at with democracy in America? The way that these guys are going, they have not - you know, there's been more mudslinging in this campaign than there has been policy-related. And I just - it's just not good and a lot of people are hurting, ma'am. So, you know, what I would say is, you know, we better pray.
MARTIN: Amy, what about you?
HOAG: I feel optimistic that our economy is on the right track, but I'm also realistic, so that's where I am. I'm excited that, you know, we have a woman that is the nominee. And I think that's something to be excited about, so that's where I'm at.
MARTIN: OK. Final thought from you, Stacey.
POLK: Yes. I appreciate what are - my fellow panelists have contributed to this discussion. The economy may be on the right track for some, but I believe that there are far too many of us for whom it has - it remains de-railed. We have to take other approaches. We have to look at the fact that our urban cities, many of them are in crisis and that should not - the truth of that is not made more or less depending upon who points that out. And I would like to see more action rather than status quo because we can ill-afford that and remain the greatest country on earth.
MARTIN: That's Stacey Polk, who's a Republican. We were also joined by Gary Frazier, who's now a member of the Green Party and Amy Hoag, who is a Democrat. They were all part of our DNC and RNC panels of voters before the conventions, and they were nice enough to join us once again. And next week, we're going to check in with the rest of our friends from Philadelphia and Cleveland. Thank you all so much for speaking with us.
POLK: Thank you.
HOAG: Right, thanks for having us.
FRAZIER: Thank you. No DAPL. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.