We talked a lot about the media. She primarily watches Fox News. “I find them to be the least biased either way, left or right leaning,” she said. “Every time I turn on the news I get upset. More and more people are working against each other for personal gain rather than worker for each other.” Our conversation veered into Social Security territory. Hofstetter did not seem to know about the social compact that underlies the program. “I know they want to privatize it, and I like that. I’d personally prefer to know I had my own money in my account,” she explained. She said she knew that privatization presented some risks like the stock market falling and wiping out her investments, but she didn’t mind that. “I would feel more comfortable knowing it is in my hands.”

For others, neither politics nor health care nor Social Security are high on their list of priorities. For Enisael Aguilera, age twenty-six, getting a job is foremost. Aguilera was born in California and has lived in Waukesha, where his family runs a clothing business. He worked in a foundry as a welder making $16.50 an hour but has been out of work for eleven months, living on food stamps and unemployment checks. He will get only one more, he told me.

Aguilera wasn’t up on politics, although he said he would probably vote for Feingold because Democrats are more helpful to Latinos. That is, if he voted. He wasn’t sure he would. The New York Times reported that Latinos this year are particularly dejected with the political process. I asked him what Latinos need most. “A driver’s license,” he replied. I thought about his answer. Health care, Social Security, and gobs of other issues don’t matter as much as a way to get to work.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.