Liberty, through the lens

Get people talking about politics this year, and the conversation is impassioned, often difficult, sometimes searching: What is the proper role for government in America today? What’s a safety net and what’s a handout? Where do my rights stop and yours begin? From now through Election Day, Washington Post journalists are traveling through one of the newest battleground states, Virginia, to listen in as voters wrestle with the issues of 2012.

Voters' voices


Would you say you, yourself, are better off financially than you were when Obama became president, not as well off, or in about the same shape as then financially? Why?

Photo essay

Virginia’s economy

On the graphs and by the numbers, the Commonwealth looks pretty comfortable. The state budget has a big surplus, the unemployment rate is well below the national average, and the counties ringing the capital are among the richest in America. Get past the statistics and talk for a while to people going about their business, however, and their faces and voices are uneasy. They’re doing fine, but gridlock in Washington bothers them. Or they’re making ends meet, but the kids aren’t at summer camp this year. Or they’re looking for work and reconciling themselves to making less than they did, or not being in the field they studied in college. Across the state, from farmland to backwater to shipyard to technology hub, voters in this new battleground sounded more anxious than angry, and uncertain whether any president can solve their money troubles.

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PORTRAITS: Melina Mara; PHOTO ESSAY: Bonnie Jo Mount; WRITING: Ann Gerhart; DESIGN: Grace Koerber and Kat Downs; AUDIO: Nick Kirkpatrick - The Washington Post.

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