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‘A country without purpose’: Americans share fears for their nation

Feb 22


From the numerous wars raging abroad to our civil divisions here at home, it can sometimes feel like America and the world are on fire. In addressing these crises, it is essential to prioritize and identify the ones that concern Americans the most.

In this 28-minute episode of America Speaks, pollster and political analyst Dr. Frank Luntz asks Americans to share their deepest concerns for their country and the world. From a lack of empathy and civility to the financial difficulties of modern life, the panelists explore a range of different answers. Almost all of them, however, say their biggest concerns have more to do with American culture and behavior than economics.

Hello again. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz, and welcome to the latest installment of America speaks right here on straight arrow news. We had a fascinating conversation last week about what’s right here in America. People talked about the success stories, the opportunities, and why we should be confident and hopeful about the future. Well, unfortunately, that’s only half the story. And that makes this segment really special. We’re going to hear from average Americans just like you, and the challenges and problems that are facing this country right now. So let’s get right to it. The conversation kicks off with a discussion of what keeps people awake at night. You represents all age groups, all demographics, geography all across the country. Tell me when you think of America, what keeps you up at night? What is your greatest fear for the country at this moment in 2024? Andre, I’m gonna start with you.
I will say optimism that our I still believe that our country is going to go to the next level. I’m just waiting for us to figure out this democratic ideology we have and how we can really help each other said having a two party system.
Laura, what keeps you awake at night, when you think about America, that
it seems like there’s a pervasive attitude of winner take all or if I can’t have what I want, you’re certainly not going to get what you want, and that we just don’t work. As you know, we just don’t mix together like we used to and give and take.
Peter, what concerns you the most about the direction of the country?
The lack of civility, the lack of empathy, the lack of holding on to actual facts that you can’t have your own set of facts. The all those become very, very problematic. Liz, how would you respond to that question? Affordability, like, everything’s just so expensive.
You know, I’m a caregiver to my mom. I thought I would have money in the bank after selling a home and I just, I can’t, I can never get ahead. Because everything costs so much. Clark,
your answer.
In two years, our country is going to celebrate its 200 and 50th anniversary, this country over its history has been incredibly diverse. We’ve done the unthinkable in bringing together an incredibly diverse array of people from different places, different walks of life. I think in this moment, our unity as a people is very fragile. And I think there are forces that are continuing to spin us apart. And there’s no one who’s trying to pull us together with an earnest earnest effort. Who can vote for Clark
for President? Because I think you want an excellent. I’m actually feeling the vibe right now. I just gotta tell you, I’ll vote for you, Claire.
Let me ask you, which is a greater threat to the future of America. economic concerns, or the kind of cultural concerns that Clark raised, which which concerns you more who would say economic Raise your hands? Three, four of you who would say cultural concerns?
That’s another fact. I mean, I think both. But no, you have
to choose. We’re not politicians that that say everything. I is the cultural concern, greater to you than the economic concern? Anybody? Do it? Let’s go with you.
Yeah, I just have a feeling we’ve become a country without a purpose. Where we, there’s no, we’ve lost a lot of our commonality. And we need to, we need to recapture our commonality, where we’re all where we share expectations, and, and, and share a vision. We don’t have a vision anymore. That’s the big thing we’ve lacking. And I think without that division, it’s just allowed all this division to pop up. Robert,
compromise has become a dirty word in this country. We’re all tribal, it’s my side versus their side. And my side can do anything, whether it’s right or wrong, whether it’s appropriate or illegal. And I’ll defend them because it’s my side and the other side is the enemy. We’ve been spoiled for 30 years because we’ve been the only superpower in the world and now China is coming for us. And we’re not prepared for it. We think the guy on the other side To the street who believes in a different political party is the enemy, when there are a lot worse factors out there that want to take America down, we got to remember that we’re still stronger together. And we need to learn to work together. We’re not the enemy here in this country.
Like, and to answer the question of like, what keeps me up at night, I have fear of instability and uncertainty in this country. And that’s really frightening, I think, for America, because I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. And I think that that’s, like a scary place to be in here. And, you know, I come from the former Soviet Union. So I know like, the other side, I know what it is that we’re against. And I feel like, there’s so much similarities. Now, actually, there are so many similarities.
And I feel I feel similar to IANA Frank, and it’s because I’m so concerned with the world is literally on fire everywhere. And so I worry about the stability, just of the world, with respect to possible involvement in foreign wars, all these countries fighting, the agitation that we’ve seen such an uptick of, because that will also make relations in the United States bubble up that will cause friction and divisive pneus in the country. So it’s like a domino effect.
Sara, go ahead.
I think polarity is a problem here in the United States. And I quite frankly, you know, I walked away from a 20 year career in the capitalist world in New York City. And now I’m exploring connection with self, I think there’s a lot of trauma that we all have, whether it’s generational or otherwise recent, from all the crap that’s been going on,
why need to be more united in general, I think somebody needs to come in, who’s not going to divide us and who’s going to inspire both sides, Republican and Democrat, you know, and just just people, all of us, Georgia.
So I mean, the way the way that I’m connecting with what a lot of people have said, in terms of the lack of civil discourse, and what Sarah just said, is like, there, I’m actually fearful in my everyday life of saying the wrong thing. And it’s not, it’s not so much a complaint about wokeness. But, you know, people are so polarized, that, you know, if you’re either going to find people who adamantly agree with you, or you can’t talk too
much of that conversation was alarming, because that clearly affects our day to day quality of life. But there’s an issue that our participants volunteered, that’s equally important, our economy, and the opportunity that it does or does not provide people to rise up and achieve the American dream. Let’s listen as our Americans discuss something that is clearly important to their lives. Let’s get a show of hands here. How many of you are afraid of what you say, in a day, in a day to day basis, that someone’s going to jump down your throats? What’s happened, Laura, Ashton, any of you what’s happened, that we’re now that we may have freedom of speech and the Constitution, but we don’t have it in reality. You
know, it’s when you feel the way it sometimes you feel very seriously strongly about something, and you want to have a conversation and you train yourself to go about it in a polite and respectful way and to listen, but you worry, like where I live? I know Trump, you know, when resoundingly and in my county and so forth. So I do feel like I’ve got to be careful. And I bought a Republican voters against Trump t shirt and mask and beer koozie and stuff right after the election thinking I wouldn’t need them in 2024. But I’m really afraid to put mine on when I go out walking, you know, so I stay away from it. And that’s bad.
And, well, I feel that everyone has gotten so sensitive that almost anything I say, will cause a rift and if I say something, that I like something even remotely pro Trump, I’m not a fan of his but I think the wall was a good idea. We wouldn’t have all these immigrants here. If we did have that wall. But my friends won’t ever talk to me again. I mean, I could say that in front of friends, I’ve had 40 years and they hate Trump so much. It will go on culture,
canceled culture in general is just like, you know, to me, it’s almost very much like communism, you can’t say certain things you can’t do certain. There’s something that’s happening that I’ve never experienced in this country and coming from a communist background like knowing the other side. So very similar. I’m just putting out.
Yeah, no, there’s no nuance. That’s the problem is when I was I listened to a person who does political an analysis, and they have someone come on and speak every week. And and he comes on and talking about how Trump is doing better in the polls, and how, how Biden hasn’t been doing well, and people call back and say all he wants us him to win. It’s like, we’re like children. It’s like, no, there’s nuance, like there needs to things can be the same at the same time. I can’t stand Donald Trump. But yes, the wall might have been a good idea. But it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden I love Donald Trump will have gotten to the point where they can’t split that apart. And it’s like, if you say one thing, you know, then then you are 100% for it, or 100% against it. And people have to understand there’s shades of gray there. And that’s where we should be. Is that exactly? Yeah, we’ve
fallen captive to a sense that there is a left right political divide. And there is not one, that you cannot neatly place issues on a line to the left to the right. But somehow through through, you know, political marketing, and tribal, you know, marketing of political situations. And people we’ve been given the sense that there are these two tribes,
we hear those talking points of America’s divided every four years. But the truth is, we’re, we’re divided. Everyday, Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. So I think when we learn as Americans to come together and be able to critically say, Donald Trump did some good things. They did some good things. This person does some good things. And we take the best out of all of that, and say, what’s best for us as Americans together?
Who hears over 860? Raise your hands. Okay, ask you guys. John, I’m gonna start with you. Is it better or worse today than it was 30 years ago?
Meaning the state of the country? Yes, it’s worse. Why? I don’t think we’re able within real important parts of the country, political, particularly the political class, the media, to inspire people. I think, as I’ve listened people really, I think that’s the case. I mean, we used to be able to have people bring 60 votes in the Senate together and pass major legislation. And it’s very difficult now. And I think it’s so great in in the way the country can be entrepreneurial, and do all these great things and civil society. But the press in the political class in particular just don’t seem to match up with that, and they divide us is a way of, you know, getting money and getting power stolen.
If you compare the condition of the country today, with where we were 30 years ago, Are we better off or worse off? Way
worse off, there’s no the optimism is gone. I look at my son, I look at other young people there, a lot of them are delaying starting families getting getting things going. That’s why our population, the birthrate is just collapse is because there’s no optimism, there’s no sense. They don’t want to belong to things. They don’t want to volunteer for things that it’s just totally different. I evolved to care for all boards and draft kinds of things. And my son’s more like, they’ve got it taken care of. It’s become a passive view. And I see that as the new way people think it’s not the way we thought 3040 years ago.
Robert looked back at 30 years ago, are we better or worse off the condition of the country,
I’m going to be the contrarian because we always tend to romanticize the past and forget, you know, all the warts and ugly parts. If you look at our standard of living and the opportunities that exist compared to where everybody was 30 years ago, there’s no comparison in terms of, I’ll call it material wealth and the opportunity for spiritual wealth. Not that everybody takes advantage of it. But we are more fragmented as a group. That’s a large part due to changing technologies. But I think if you divorce the projected mass from the individual, I think people individually, you know, are better off and feel better off not everyone, but on the whole compared to where you were 30 years ago, and what what the issues were in the challenges were 30 years ago. There’s so much more progress that we’ve made. So I typically in medicine, in a lot of other areas, that, again, the past gets romanticized.
He can’t get away from politics when you talk about what’s wrong with America, politics and the political divisions and the polarization. And even the poison is what people focus on most. Let’s listen. So if you’re to look to the future, I’m going to give you think the future is going to be more problematic than the present. As you look what’s happening in this country, who’s really afraid of the future. Okay, my bill, Peter, and and I’m gonna go to you. What concerns you the most about the days, weeks, months and years to come? Mike, you’ll start.
I’m a high school history teacher, Frank. And I teach civics too, and thank you. And I appreciate it. But we are the closest that we have ever been by my objective viewing to a dictatorship. Okay, the Republican Party is falling in line behind Trump and they need they feel like they need Him. So the voices of any, you know, reasonable, reasonable, right leaning moderates that are in that party that they’re hiding. Okay, so that’s the problem here. I mean, Biden needs to run to the middle find himself a running mate there, get a grand deal done to prove his chops. Like somebody was saying earlier now
and we’re focusing in the country on the country
dictatorship. It’s going to be a dictatorship. Trump will lead this country into dictatorship. I’ve watched the I’ve studied the 1930s have studied Venezuela. Yes, he’s gonna get the Constitution is going to be wired up and thrown over our shoulders closest I’m scared, I’m really scared. Dale,
are you do you do by any the stuff that Mike’s saying?
Not a lot of it. My My view is that change is really what we need to learn how to deal with that the rate of change is faster now than it’s ever been. And it’ll be slower today than it is a year from now. Most people don’t adapt very well, or very quickly to change. And I think that’s one of the major things, it’s driving people to the edges of the political spectrum, that I need a way to deal with things. I don’t like all these brown people coming across the border, that’s a change that somebody’s going to have to learn how to deal with. And we’re not very good at that.
And what concerns you so much about the future. Um,
I feel the inflation is going to keep going, I feel that the middle class is going to be squeezed even more and that someday it’s just going to be rich and poor people. Um, I feel also that retirees are going to have a rougher time than anyone else. If somebody wants to live on Social Security, it’s not doable now. Unless you maybe live in the middle of Iowa and don’t have a car. You know, it’s or you move a lot of people have moved to Mexico. And a lot of people now are looking to leave the country and a lot of people have it shouldn’t be that way.
Theater. I have been a big follower of elections my whole life, even when I was a kid, and there’s been people have wanted to win and not win, but I’ve never been afraid of someone to win. And the situation with Trump, uh, he’s he’s telegraphing everything he’s not. He’s not hiding it. And just like our friend here, who was the civics teacher, reading things about the 1930s in Germany, the economy, doing poorly, migration, immigration, and bringing a strong man who’s going to fix it all for you. is terrifying to me.
So, to every complicated problem,
it’s never it’s never I’ve never been more worried for democracy and hearing our friend from who came from the Soviet Union say that she she sees this as how it’s going. is terrifying. It confirms what I’ve already thought. And I feel if more people knew their new history, if more people understood what what what has already come down. What we’re so self absorbed, that we can’t we can’t. We’re so honestly, we have so much education, but no one’s any smarter. This is going to be a repeat of the 30s which is terrifying to me. Laura and your what happened in this country?
Yeah, I think another thing that really worries me is that we’re being poked on so many fronts by other nations and organizations and terrorist groups that are all out there. And they know very well that they can get us now, I think, you know, through their technology, that we’re not safe being over here on this continent necessarily, and our own political divisions and our lack of ability to get things done is only going to make it more challenging for us in the future.
Robert, you’re nodding your head very strongly. Why do you agree?
Because the pace of change, technologically is only going to increase. And it’s going to be stabilizing the next war is not going to be a nuclear war, the next war is going to be information war, it’s going to be over an hour and a half. And we’re going to lose control of our electric grids and our money. And we won’t even know what gets us. And going back to the the earlier statement is somebody said, change is hard. The rate of change is only going to get faster over the next 20 years, we think the iPhone is only 15 years old. Think about what the world was like before the iPhone, and now it’s ubiquitous. And between AI and robotics and genetic engineering, the amount of transformation that’s going to happen is going to be enormous. The central question we as a country are going to have to deal with is we have always said that we all believed in equality for everyone. The question is, was that with an asterisk that because it was the white Protestant men who were in charge, that we were okay, allowing for equality. And as our country changes more and more, and I think some of the political backlash you’re seeing right now is because there’s a threat from a segment of the population that is scared of losing control from their tribe. Tracy, you
want to react to that?
I do. I didn’t raise my hand to the to about at what am I concerned about what’s going to happen, but after listening to several folks in their comments, you know, I think about it, I am worried I am concerned that they are with increasing polarization and a lack of bipartisanship. And as others have said about immigration and the border not being controlled and people’s perceptions of like all these people are coming all these brown people are coming I am concerned of what may happen in the next year or two, particularly if you know, Joe Biden does lose act
when when you look towards the future. And you see where we are going, what is your single greatest concern?
Economy and then possible, or the mostly the economy, I don’t see it getting better. Interest rates are crazy. There’s no positives or negatives anywhere to be found in the economy.
I’m afraid you guys get there more people working today. Wages have gone up. There’s more opportunity across the country than there has ever been.
That for the average person, they it’s difficult for them to survive the average person, it’s difficult for them to pay their rent, to put food on the table for them and their kids gas. It’s, you know, filtering out a better little better. But the average person, it’s difficult for them. I’ve got very, I couldn’t begin to describe to you some some people who I know who have to make a choice, pay the rent or II. It’s not that simple for them. I’ve had, I’ve
had a whole bunch of bonuses and things to try to keep me at my work because so many people are leaving the workplace. I’ve gotten so many, but at the same time, the rate of inflation has gone so much where it’s it’s basically just cancelling each other out. So you know, I only need one major, climactic situation happened in my life and I’m underwater. I’m doing okay, I’m making milk but all I need is an illness. All I need is one. And that’s exactly. Agree.
Okay, that’s a final question. The economic elites are watching right now the political elites are watching right now the cultural elites are watching right now. What do they not understand about you? Or about the country that you want them to know? As you contemplate the things that concern you the most? What would you tell them? John, I want to start with you.
I would tell him to start compromising and stop picking on issues like immigration in the border is the dividing mine, which I think they both do, and I would want the press to hear that message, as well as our politicians that are running for office. Randy, where
would you tell them?
I think they need to. Really. Like, I agree with John like the compromising thing. But I also think like, you know, look at the whole picture, like, maybe listen to what people’s concerns are, be, you know, and draw and think about that, like, someone is, you know, we’re all talking about the economy, we’re all talking about immigration, we’re all talking about, you know, like the inflation what’s infecting us that needs to be taken into consideration, not just one piece of the puzzle, everything into consideration, Laura, what
would you tell them? You’re,
it’s not a zero sum game, you got to give and take. And you know, you get points for giving. And people respect that too.
Andre, how would you answer that question?
And in a weird way, but I will say this. If I was talking to someone or talking to them, I was telling him that the how I look at it, democracy is a game. And I need you to play the game, right? Meaning that us as Americans, we need some assistance. For example, I had to, I had to work practically two full time jobs, just to take care of my family. And yes, I saw big mouths of money coming into my house. But due to inflation, it’s like I was like, wow, what if I didn’t do that, my family wouldn’t be able to survive. So it’s a lot. It’s now it’s time for us to get some new game changer. That’s why Trump was so powerful because you’re saying drain the swamp. And that makes sense to people. Because they are working, and they’re checked behind the check close to, you know, if somebody gets sick and things of that nature, they can end up losing everything, things that they worked hard for. And I think that’s, that’s the main thing I will say, though, was that the game is over, we’re starting to learn the game. And we ready to put new players in that’s gonna work for the people, not for the corporations.
That was an incredibly sobering conversation. It was very tough to listen to. But it’s even tougher to live. And let’s hope that we can address those challenges and those fears that face Americans in their day to day lives. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. Thank you for listening. And please come back again for the next segment of America speaks right here on straight arrow News.

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