Stuck in the Middle

Americans in the heartland are yearning for compromise, while politicians play to the haters

Lynsey Addario / VII for TIME

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann speaks in Cedar Rapids, Iowa during a Team Bachmann rally, September 26, 2011.

JOE KLEIN'S ROAD TRIP

The caller's name was Donna. She came to praise Michele Bachmann, who was a guest on a conservative Des Moines radio show. But Donna just couldn't help herself. The very thought of Barack Obama sent her into a paroxysm of anger. He was going to destroy the country, she said. He was a joke, she said, winding herself up, searching for something outrageous that no one had yet said about the President of the United States. Finally, she found it: "I would vote for Charles Manson before this guy," and she pledged her support to Bachmann.

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