Dan Sullivan is the face of the new moderate.
He's frustrated with the Democrats for abandoning the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission. He's frustrated with Republicans for adopting the Bush tax cuts -- "a grievous error," he said.
And he's equally fed up with Democrats (again) for not shrinking the tax cuts when they controlled Congress in 2009-2010.
A 55-year-old architect with three out-of-the-house kids and a member of the Mission Hills City Council, Sullivan is a longtime registered Republican -- but now leans toward a Democratic vote for president.
Still, he's unhappy with his choice.
"I don't feel like either party has the best interests of the country in mind right now," Sullivan said. "It's unfortunate in that we haven't reached that point of crisis where things will be done. It may come upon us sooner than we think."
Fed up. Confused. Skeptical. Irritated. Moderate voters in Kansas and Missouri no longer enjoy the task of going to the polls and punching a ballot.
"I'm actually leaning toward not voting this time around," said Kansas City's Chris Bell, 29, who works at UPS. "I'm definitely not looking forward to voting."
His reason: Governing the country has grown too combative. People dislike Congress.
"It's driving normal people away," Bell said. "Politics within the last five years has gotten too extreme on both sides of the aisle ... there's no one taking a more moderate stance, willing to compromise on anything."
That extremism has bogged down Congress, turning it into a paragon of paralysis.
The inability to get anything done is a leading reason why 80 million Americans avoided the polls in 2008. Election experts expect that number to rise this year and approach the levels seen in 2000, when only 54 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
While polarization has increased in Congress, the overall ideological makeup of the American voting public hasn't changed. About 22 percent of Americans describe themselves as liberal, 37 percent as moderate and 36 percent as conservative -- numbers that have remained steady since 2000, the Pew Research Center found. But many political scientists regard the number of moderates as squishy because, when pressed, most self-identified moderates acknowledge that they lean toward one party or the other.
The breakdowns in Missouri and Kansas reflect a slightly more conservative bent. This month, SurveyUSA determined that 19 percent of Missourians self-described as liberal, 38 percent as moderate and 40 percent as conservative. In Kansas in late July, 14 percent said they were liberal, 44 percent moderate and 38 percent conservative.
The Pew Center found a slight decline in the number of Republicans describing themselves as moderate and a slight uptick in the number of Democrats describing themselves as liberal.
Moderates whom The Kansas City Star informally surveyed said they were as anxious about the future as ever.
"My fear is that government will do something bad that will affect the quality of life that we won't be able to fix for many, many years," said Rick Worrel, chairman of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce and president of Affinis Corp., a civil engineering firm.
Worrel, 51, worries about the quality of education for two of his daughters, who have yet to graduate from high school.
What frustrates him most is the inability to compromise in Congress. In his business, groups of engineers working together, sharing ideas and taking the best of what emerges is a daily practice.
"You come up with something better by having different options and ideas," Worrel explained. "We disagree, brainstorm, throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks, then turn it into something that's pretty good ... There doesn't appear to be any of that going on in Washington."
Dennis Winslett, a 37-year-old professional musician raising three autistic children in Olathe, yearns for something just as basic as Worrel: "I just want somebody to stand up and make sense," he said.
Winslett would like to see advances in education and an upgrade to the 19th century model still used to educate kids. He suffers from multiple sclerosis and could soothe the fire he feels in his legs with medicinal marijuana. But that remains illegal in most states.
Too little is getting done in Washington, he said. He remains uncertain about whom he'll back in November.
"The opposite party says be against the other party even if it might make sense," Winslett said. But his view: "Put a good idea up there, vote on it, and let's move on. Why do we have to play political games to the point that nothing gets done?"
Like Sullivan, Julie Connor of Overland Park has little hope that Congress will turn itself around soon. "If history repeats itself, it will take a war," she predicted.
A 54-year-old teacher who last year worked for the Kansas City Public Schools, Connor said she's saddened by what she sees in Washington: the constant running for re-election, the influence of money and candidates who say what they won't do, not what they will do.
"They define themselves by the actions and words of other candidates, then hold themselves up as the antithesis of what the opponents stand for," Connor said.
"What kind of clarity is that? How do we know what they stand for if neither side will say who and what they are?
"I'm very disillusioned."