RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne with Steve Inskeep.
The new Congress starts next week. Democrats control both Houses for the first time in a dozen years. Republicans still control the White House. Today we start an effort to learn what you expect of them. We've been contacting voters who live along U.S. Route 50. If you begin your journey on that highway here on the West Coast, you would travel across deserts, cities and mountains before passing by the U.S. Capitol and the White House.
Steve Inskeep starts us on that journey.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
All right, we're going to take this trip with a telephone and a map. The map in front of me shows the states of California and Nevada - the Western part of Route 50 now. And we've traced a blue line to show the highway starting near Sacramento, which is where we found Mickey Fausett who is on the line.
Mr. Fausett, welcome to the program.
Mr. MICKEY FAUSETT: Thank you.
INSKEEP: What kind of place is West Sacramento?
Mr. FAUSETT: It's actually just right across the river from Sacramento. We're considered part of Sacramento, but yet we are distinctively very, very different.
INSKEEP: Are you getting consumed by Sacramento's suburbs as they grow out?
Mr. FAUSETT: Yes, and one of our major concerns here is the uncontrolled expansion. We're starting to get, really, traffic jams like L.A. And as we're growing larger out the south end of town, the north end and the northwest end of town - there's concerns there that that's being ignored, the older, historic part.
INSKEEP: What are the big issues that are on people's minds in West Sacramento?
Mr. FAUSETT: It seems to be just the local growth and the problems with that.
INSKEEP: Where do you put yourself on the political spectrum?
Mr. FAUSETT: Pretty far to the left.
INSKEEP: And is that representative of West Sacramento, do you think?
Mr. FAUSETT: I think probably not as liberal as me, but we're kind of historically a blue-collar town. That's one of the things - that the image is trying to be changed to more of a white-collar, but yet we have this blue-collar background, you know, and history.
INSKEEP: Well Mr. Fausett, stay on the line and let's move along this map of Route 50 across the United States here. Let's go to Rancho Cordova, California, just a little bit to the east, where we have found Jean Fox who is a makeup artist there.
Ms. Fox, welcome to the program.
Ms. JEAN FOX (Makeup Artist): Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
INSKEEP: Makeup artist. Who do you work for?
Ms. FOX: I work with a lot of the politicians, actually.
INSKEEP: Oh, because you're near Sacramento there, still.
Ms. FOX: That's right.
INSKEEP: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ever come by?
Ms. FOX: I've met him.
INSKEEP: You've met him?
Ms. FOX: I've done his makeup before.
INSKEEP: Does he use a lot?
Ms. FOX: I'm not allowed to talk about it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: Okay, that's fine. Are your politics about the same as his?
Ms. FOX: No, they're not. I'm a registered Republican, but I'm feeling more and more like a Democrat.
INSKEEP: What's making you feel that way?
Ms. FOX: I'm just feeling our liberty is being taken away from us a day at a time, day-to-day, you know. Life is a lot different for our children than it was for us.
INSKEEP: What are some things the government has been doing that makes you feel your liberty is being taken away day-by-day?
Ms. FOX: Not being able to get on a plane and bring your personal belongings with you. We had an incident recently in our neighborhood where there was a crime committed and they locked down our neighborhood and people weren't allowed to come and go from their own homes.
INSKEEP: What kind of a criminal were they looking for?
Ms. FOX: Somebody was pulled over and they fired shots. So police locked down the neighborhood until they could find him. But they locked down the neighborhood for like 12 hours. The actions of the few are affecting the whole.
INSKEEP: Now you mentioned that you're a Republican who's been feeling Democratic lately. Did George W. Bush get your vote for president either time?
Ms. FOX: He did get my vote.
INSKEEP: Both times?
Ms. FOX: Mm-hmm.
INSKEEP: And what about in 2006, when you had a vote in the congressional election?
Ms. FOX: I voted Democrat.
INSKEEP: Did you feel that you were embracing Democrats or running away from Republicans?
Ms. FOX: Embracing Democrats. The Democrats are more about the tangible day-to-day of people's needs. Like, I'm self-employed, and health insurance costs now exceed the cost of my mortgage. I send my son to a private school where I feel like he can be supported and safe, where he doesn't go through metal detectors to get to school.
INSKEEP: Are you hoping the new Congress will address those two concerns you just named - education and healthcare?
Ms. FOX: Oh, definitely.
INSKEEP: Well, stay with us there in Rancho Cordova, California, and Mr. Fausett is still with us from West Sacramento. I want to continue along our map here along this blue line, U.S. 50. And as we go east of Rancho Cordova, Jean, I think we're going over the mountains, aren't we, the Sierra Nevadas?
Ms. FOX: Mm-hmm.
INSKEEP: The map says Kit Carson, California. And then we cross into Nevada. There's Lake Tahoe. And we end up in Carson City, Nevada, where we've reached Len Semas, the publisher of the “Sierra Sage.”
Mr. Semas, what is the “Sierra Sage?”
Mr. LEN SEMAS (Publish, “Sierra Sage”): Oh, hello there. The “Sierra Sage” is a little regional magazine, kind of a general interest publication; deals with both national, state, international issues - the whole works.
INSKEEP: Now let me just - so we know where you're coming from politically -would you say you're Republican, Democrat?
Mr. SEMAS: Well, I've been a life-long Republican and I find myself increasingly separated from the party.
INSKEEP: What's separating you from your party?
Mr. SEMAS: My party has become very much like the other party. They're really indistinguishable in many respects. The two parties have become cases of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
INSKEEP: If you had to name one thing that the new Congress would focus on or change, what would it be?
Mr. SEMAS: Well, I think one of the most immediate things that they should do -and I'm afraid that they will, but in the wrong manner - is deal with the massive problem of illegal immigration. And I'm very fearful that they're going to enact something along the lines of the Senate bill, which is going to cripple this country over the next 20 years.
INSKEEP: Cripple this country over the next 20 years. You mean the Senate bill that would allow guest workers and so forth?
Mr. SEMAS: Not just allow guest workers, but would create citizenship out of illegal entry into the country for as many as 20 million people over the next five years or so. You know, they're basically bankrupting our school systems, our hospitals right now, and the Senate majority and the Democrat control of the houses now will be in a position to push through that bill.
INSKEEP: You've got a lot of immigrants in Carson City?
Mr. SEMAS: Yeah, we do.
INSKEEP: Are they also, as is often as said of immigrants, illegal or legal, are they also doing a lot of jobs that Native-born Americans wouldn't want to do, at least not for that wage?
Mr. SEMAS: Well, that's the popular mantra, but I don't know how those jobs got done 10 or 20 years ago, if that's the case.
INSKEEP: We're preparing for the new Congress by listening to voters across America, people who lived along U.S. Route 50. And we're going to continue along the map now from Carson City in Nevada, where we were listening to Len Semas, and cross Nevada deserts and mountains. And we end up in Eureka, Nevada, which is where we have found a Jim Ithurralde. Mr. Ithurralde, welcome to the program.
Mr. JIM ITHURRALDE (Resident, Eureka, Nevada): Thank you very much, sir.
INSKEEP: You've just been listening to that discussion of immigration. Are there a lot of immigrants in Eureka?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: We're an agricultural community, so yes.
INSKEEP: What's grown there?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Alfalfa and Timothy hay?
INSKEEP: And is immigration, just to stay on that topic for a moment, is immigration a big issue locally politically?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: No, because, you know, most of our farm labor, that's what it is.
Mr. ITHURRALDE: My biggest thing is, you know, I don't like illegal aliens, I do like legal aliens. But this is a immigration country. I mean this is what this country is made from.
INSKEEP: And so people don't want illegal immigration, but they realize they need immigrants.
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Yes. What we need is immigrants, but we need the people to employ and step up and, you know, have health insurances for them and let them pay their portion of the health insurance like the rest of us do.
INSKEEP: Now you mentioned this is not the biggest political issue in Eureka, Nevada, there along Route 50. What is? What are some major concerns the people have?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Well, we have invasion of Wormman(ph) crickets. That's been the last six or seven years.
INSKEEP: An invasion of crickets?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Yes.
INSKEEP: Maybe there should be a guest worker program for the crickets?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Probably. We're also very concerned, you know, we live on mining and agriculture and we're very concerned about the new Congress coming in, about tinkering again with the 1872 Mining Law, because this county here on the northern end our county has the two largest gold mines in America.
INSKEEP: Now the 1872 Mining Law, and correct me if I'm wrong, doesn't that say that it is very easy for miners to go onto federal land and get minerals out of the ground?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: That's correct.
INSKEEP: And some people have said the government is getting ripped off by miners, and they want to change the law.
Mr. ITHURRALDE: That's correct.
INSKEEP: Except, I imagine out there in Eureka there's a different viewpoint.
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Exactly, because it's a very small county. We only have about 1,500 people living in the county, but we employ over 4,000 people coming to work here and it's all related to mining.
INSKEEP: Did you vote Republican this fall?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Absolutely.
INSKEEP: Are you normally a Republican voter?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Been that all my life.
INSKEEP: Where you disappointed at the results of the election this last time?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Yes. You know, I'm a little bit lean to the right, maybe went a little bit too far to the left.
INSKEEP: Are you actually within sight of Route 50?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Looking right out the window right at it. It's our main street of our town.
INSKEEP: What are we going to see as we traveled to the east of here, of Eureka?
Mr. ITHURRALDE: We pass by mountains passes between here and the town of Ely, Nevada. Nevada is beautiful if you get off the interstates.
INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Ithurralde, it's been a pleasure speaking with you.
Mr. ITHURRALDE: Thank you, sir.
INSKEEP: Len Semas in Carson City, Jean Fox in Rancho Cordova, and Mickey Fausett in West Sacramento. It's great to talk to you along U.S. 50, as well.
Ms. FOX: Thank you.
Mr. FAUSETT: Thank you.
Mr. SEMAS: Thank you.
Mr. FAUSETT: Been our pleasure, sir.
MONTAGNE: Our Route 50 series continues Monday, moving on to Utah and Colorado.
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