Jason Goodfriend of Matthews calls himself a raging moderate and said Congress rarely reflects his views or those of the countrys millions of other middle-of-the-roaders.
Im tired of the extremism on both sides, said Goodfriend, a 52-year-old marketing analyst. Americans are generally a pragmatic, problem-solving people and the extremism were experiencing on the left and right is hurting our country.
Teacher Mary Jo Shepherd, 43, of Charlotte sounded the same note of disgust with the Washington scene: Its obviously a mess and everybody knows it. Its time for (President Barack Obama and members of Congress) to all become grown-ups and fix the countrys problems.
Goodfriend and Shepherd are among 400 or so people planning to spend Friday night attending a forum on gridlock in Washington.
The 7 p.m. event co-sponsored by The Charlotte Observer and PNC Bank and hosted by UNC Charlotte will feature panels of current and former members of Congress.
Organizers also have set aside time during the two hours for those in the audience at UNC Charlottes uptown campus to submit questions.
Expect some tough ones, especially at a time when Obama and congressional leaders are trying to avoid a fiscal cliff beginning Jan. 1 that would raise taxes for everybody, take a chain saw to federal programs, and possibly bring on another recession.
I hope they appreciate that the countrys problems are serious enough that they cant continue to kick the can down the road, David Robinson, a 65-year-old retiree in Charlotte, said about Congress.
Current members of Congress on Fridays panel: Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, and GOP Reps. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land, S.C., and Patrick McHenry of Cherryville.
Voters want compromise
Will we get the same line from each of them or will something real come out of them? wondered Sabra Perozzo, 66, an accountant in Charlotte, who had this advice for all members of Congress: Instead of trying to get elected next time and pandering, why not take an honest look at the problem and work together to solve it?
Fridays audience will include Democrats, Republicans and independents. And though some interviewed by the Observer found particular fault with Obama or with Republicans in Congress, even the more partisan voters called on those in Washington to compromise, find solutions and act.
Democrat Maxine Eaves, a retired nurse in Charlotte, said its awful how (congressional Republicans) have disrespected this president. She mentioned a 2010 pledge by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to try to make Obama a one-term president.
Yet 67-year-old Eaves said her hope for Friday night is to hear that theyre all willing to go across the aisle and work together.
On the other side, Republican Henry Panzer of Charlotte is no fan of Obamas: We have a president who doesnt interact at all with Congress. He dictates, he doesnt negotiate.
But Panzer, too, said hes disappointed with the confrontational behavior coming from both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.
There is no dialogue. Nobody is willing to listen to those with a different opinion, said Panzer, 79, a retired businessman. In the past you had Democrats who would work with Republicans, and vice versa. Now people up there are so divided, so wrapped up in their own positions.
Gridlock not an option
All of those interviewed by the Observer had advice for the president and members of Congress including their own representatives.
Democrat Bruce Hamlett of Mint Hill said he wants those in Washington to know how frustrating it is for him and so many others when election-year promises to work together are quickly forgotten after the votes are counted.
You represent everyone (in your districts), so you need to work with the other side, said Hamlett, 58. Youve got to get something done. Gridlock is not an option.
Melissa Warsaw, 44, of Charlotte works in financial services. She said members of Congress forget why theyre up there and get caught up in a Washington machine that has more to do with lobbyists than constituents.
The result: Real programs go unfixed, she says.
One suggestion she had for Washingtons current leaders: Go see Lincoln, the movie from director Steven Spielberg, that shows how the 16th president and his allies used political skills to get a divided Congress to pass the 13th Amendment banning slavery.
Its eye-opening and you can see some similarities to today, says Warsaw, a registered unaffiliated voter. They can look at this (movie) and maybe find some common ground.
And Twanna Daniels of Charlotte, whos in her 40s, said its simple, really: Listen to the people, identify the problems and work on solutions.