Joe Hanson is 50 years old. He grew up in Michigan, lived in New York City for a time, but landed in Cranston back in 2017. Hanson says it feels like a “big, small town.” 

He identifies as an Independent. He has never wanted to align with one particular party. He used to be registered as a Democrat, but that was only so he could vote in a New York State Primary some years ago. 

“I’ve always voted the person rather than the party,” said Hanson. “I don’t like the policies of the Democrats or the Republicans, frankly.” 

Hanson grew up in a small town, he never talked much about politics at the dinner table, but always had an interest in it. 

His dad was a miner, as were his grandfather and great uncle. 

“They had nice lives, they had relatively new cars, always put food on the table,” said Hanson. “Had a lake house to go on vacation and stuff. We didn’t do a lot of traveling, but we did everything we wanted to do.” 

Because of this, he sees politics through the eyes of the working class. This is just one reason he doesn’t affiliate with a party. To Hanson, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans look out for the voters that he cares deeply about. 

“I saw when free trade really had a hit on the ground and I saw when those middle class, good-paying jobs evaporated,” said Hanson. “It was devastating. That’s why I don’t know who to vote for, because nobody represents that middle-class populist point of view, frankly. I hear what they say but I see what they do, you know what I mean.” 

As Hanson cast his early ballot, three main issues were on his mind: COVID-19, the economy, and education. 

“We send teachers without any plan, and without any daily testing regime or weekly, that’s where our priorities are- distraction over the future of our country,” Hanson said.  

Looking more locally at Cranston, Hanson says he voted yes on the bond issue granting over 100 million dollars to the school system in the city-- though, he’s skeptical of where this money will go. 

This issue is personal to him. He’s looking to become a substitute teacher after his business was put on hold by the pandemic. Like many others, Hanson is finding himself at a standstill. 

“There’s no tougher job than a teacher in my opinion,” Hanson said. “We ask them to do everything and now we ask them to be disciplinarians and ethical and moral guides as well as supply their own pencils and notebooks.”

Hanson doesn’t see himself aligning with one party over the other anytime soon, refusing to conform to the extremely partisan politics we see today. As a voter, Hanson thinks about policy over parties, and though it would be easier to pick one side, he knows neither party has all the answers. 

“There’s nothing I can boil down to a bumper sticker,” said Hanson. “There’s nothing like that because reality isn’t like that.”

“If I’m exhausted, all I want is a slogan, a meme, a bumper sticker that I can say ‘Yeah!’ and then I collapse with exhaustion and get up the next day and try again. That’s what I think this country is: just exhausted.” 

Though Biden doesn’t exactly inspire him, Hanson does think he’s best suited to take on these issues that are most important to him. With a sigh, Hanson says he’s hopeful for the future. 

“Yes, I voted for Biden, and I have a lot of hope for his administration, vis-a-vis the Trump administration,” said Hanson. 

Hanson thinks this election is not about party politics. To him, it’s a battle for the soul of the nation.

This year, in our One Square Mile project, we go to Cranston, to explore the issues driving this particularly polarized election year through the stories and experiences of the voters. Read more...