The hand wringing has already begun inside the beltway about when – and if – independent Michael Bloomberg enters the presidential race. The first question in the media revolves around who loses if Bloomberg runs. It’s a replay of the 2014 gubernatorial race in Maine where an Independent was accused of vote splitting. The pundits rush to tell people how to vote based on polls and vote splitting is very much the same and it’s a disservice.
An article in the WSJ and Daily Beast both jumped on the Morning Consult bandwagon, which supports the theory that a Bloomberg candidacy would hurt the Democratic candidate and ensure a Republican White House with Donald Trump running the show. All these dire predictions before anyone has won a primary or Bloomberg has entered the race.
Before the red herring of “strategic voting” hits the American populous, driven by the ads, the consultants, and the greatest effective driver in any campaign – fear – we need to take a step back and ask a few broader questions:
- What role does the media play in this as a conduit for information?
- Why are the extremes of both parties seemingly the odds-on favorite?
- Why is our country so divided?
The New York Times remains the “newspaper of record” for those over age 40, in the same reverential league as Walter Cronkite, The Washington Post, and Edward R. Murrow – you know, those people and institutions from the “good old days” of journalism with a capital “J.”
The role of the media in campaigns has changed more than once over time. In addition to reporting, nearly every media platform now has the added role of ensuring its own survival. And the course many have charted is to give prominence to that which is most sensational as opposed to that which is most important.
Earlier this week when a barely coherent Sarah Palin endorsed Republican candidate Donald Trump, it was front-page news in The New York Times. Buried much deeper there was news about Hilary Clinton’s emails as secretary of state, emails marked beyond top secret (who knew there was such a category?) and found on her personal server.
Was the Palin endorsement truly more newsworthy than a potential breech of national security by the secretary of state, or was it merely more sensational?
Media platforms have the opportunity and responsibility to help frame the conversation around the presidential candidates. They have a responsibility not to stoop to the lowest common “National Enquirer” denominator. It’s a responsibility our media outlets should cherish.
The extremes of both parties are faring well this election season, because there is both a hunger for authenticity and a fatigue of political phoniness.
Americans like Donald Trump because he speaks his mind but are they listening to what he is saying? His anti- immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-women, anti-everything rants are hardly the ideals of most Americans, regardless of party. But he has successfully produced an image of authenticity, however cynically crafted to tap into the Zeitgeist.
People are buying it because they crave straight talk. Allowing his showmanship to trump policy could negatively impact our country for decades to come.
On the other extreme, self-proclaimed progressive Hilary Clinton struggles with authenticity. She is a Washington, D.C. insider who owes something to just about everyone. Her pandering knows no bounds. Her experience is both her blessing and her curse.
“Feel the Bern” is doing well and he is nothing if not an authentic socialist. I get why the young people like him. He is the grandfather looking out for them. His 20-something supporters have lived through the housing crisis, watched in some cases as their parents' retirement plans were eviscerated and many post grads face massive student loan debt and too little opportunity.Sanders speaks and they hear him when he talks about the evils of Wall Street and the need for jobs. His ad campaign has been nothing short of brilliant, particularly the
latest commercial set to Simon and Garfunkel’s “America.” He promotes himself as the everyman candidate ready to take on the one percent.
Further media analysis on Bloomberg will be fascinating. He has chops in both policy and governing. He has supported what some see as liberal causes, most notably background checks. Bloomberg is a millionaire with Wall Street ties, which puts him in the Trump — and Clinton -- arenas.
We need thought provoking conversation, media that steers clear of the sensational. In a nation as a diverse as America, disagreement should be standard fare because it can be healthy.
As a country and people we must remember that the world is watching and this country has found time and again the ability to do the right thing. So let’s start talking to each other and ask the question: Who will best serve the people? Forgo the rhetoric and the need to crane our heads toward the latest car crash in this campaign.
The conversation around who will serve the people best is a conversation not only worth having, but one we must have.