Thursday, October 21, 2010
The 2010 midterm elections have been marked by the rise of the tea parties, an increasingly sharp partisan divide, and even the introduction of witchcraft into the political arena. But, according to MSNBC news anchor, host and analyst David Shuster, the November 2 election is still much more a matter of grave policy issues than superficial campaign commercials.
“Think about these serious questions. Think beyond the slogans,” said Shuster to a standing-room only audience inside Sweigart Auditorium on Tuesday, October 19. “And if the candidates aren’t going to address the issues, then demand that journalists supply the answers.”
The Midterm Elections: A Political Reporter’s Perspective, presented by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, brought Shuster to Rider to discuss the upcoming elections and the role of the media in politics. Shuster, who previously worked for CNN and Fox News Channel, has been at MSNBC since 2002. He has frequently guest-hosted Hardball with Chris Matthews and appeared often as a panelist on the network’s Morning Joe. In 2005, Shuster reported live from the eye of the hurricane as Karina made landfall in Biloxi, Miss., and spent weeks detailing the wake of the storm from New Orleans.
Shuster drew attention to a topic that was gaining steam on the very day he spoke at Rider, when Republican Christine O’Donnell, who is seeking Delaware’s vacant seat in the U.S. Senate, appeared totally unaware of the First Amendment language regarding the separation of church and state in her debate with Democratic nominee Chris Coons.
“That’s the kind of election atmosphere we’re facing, “Shuster said. “You now have people who, on passion alone, are winning primaries.”
The quality of campaign-year rhetoric has also suffered from a Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on financial contributions candidates could accept from backers, according to Shuster.
“It gets to the point where you have to wonder if elected officials are casting their vote because of what is best for the country, or what is best for their reelection,” he said. This influx of campaign cash also leads to what Shuster called “a dumbing down of discourse.” he said.
“Now, instead of a more nuanced debate, most of the election is based on hyperbole,” he continued.
While major electronic media organizations are limited with regard to devoting more time to various senatorial and congressional campaigns and issues, Shuster does believe that citizens who wish to learn the facts have more outlets at their disposal than ever before.
“I don’t even mean just newspapers,” he said. “There are many blogs, foundations and fact-checking organizations that do an excellent job researching the facts. You are only a click away from finding out anything about any race in America.”
While the 2010 election is rife with political intrigue, Shuster says that its results might even be setting up a more dynamic 2012, when the White House is once again up for grabs.
“The typical independent voter understands that it took a while for the economy to melt down, and it’s going to take a while for it to recover,” he explained. “But, if the Republicans take control of the House (of Representatives), and the recovery remains slow, voters will hold them accountable, and then 2012 is going to be extremely interesting.”