TIME analyst talks political media


Mark Halperin stressed knowing "what people who run for office are like"




No one writes about real politicians anymore.

Senior political analyst for TIME magazine and MSNBC Mark Halperin thinks that the “silent majority” — voters — are not being served by some members of the political media. Halperin discussed his views at a Kelly Writers House talk on Wednesday.

He opened with a question to the audience. “Will you let me get to know you better?” he asked. “Who supported Obama in the last election?”

The response was a near totality of raised hands.

Halperin’s effort to highlight the audience’s political partiality started a discussion of bipartisanship in Washington, media bias and the current political climate.

Halperin is the co-author of New York Times Bestselling book “Double Down,” a behind-the-scenes narrative about the 2012 presidential elections.

“The book attempts to bring people alive,” he said. Halperin said it is important that journalists provide not only factual information but also “what people who run for office are like.”

Halperin described the need to return to the human dimension of politics, albeit in a partisan and balanced manner. In a climate where Twitter, Facebook and YouTube dominate, politicians are increasingly wary of exposing themselves.

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Their wariness has resulted in a political landscape in which constituents may not know their representative. Halperin wants to see the disconnect between people and government change.

He also spoke about a trend in political journalism towards negativity and sensationalism as a means of getting ahead, scoring books deals and causing a stir. “The silent majority is being drowned out by these negative voices,” he said. “We cannot let these voices be the dominant voices.”

In the current context of diminished resources and harsh rhetoric, trust between the media, politicians and readers needs to be re-established, Halperin said.

He spoke of encouraging signs of improvement. “Readers need more from news content than affirmation of their opinions,” he said. Publications such as TIME have made subtle adjustments to ensure less partisan journalism.

2016 will see Halperin cover his eighth presidential election. So far, it has been a “weird presidential cycle,” he said.

The Republicans have yet to identify an obvious forerunner. Consequently, “D candidates have been promoted to C candidates, and C candidates have been lifted to B” in media coverage.

Halperin admitted that he was unsure who would fill the leadership vacuum. He listed former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the establishment’s potential “A” candidates.

Related: New Yorker's Ryan Lizza talks politics at Kelly Writer's House

The return of a moderate Republican presidential candidate is a theme Halperin predicts will continue into 2016. “A Tea Party candidate is not going to beat [Hilary] Clinton,” he said.

Despite his personal reservations, Halperin said that Clinton is the most probable 2016 Democratic candidate.

“Boy is she formidable,” he said.

Clinton’s intuition for relationship building is among her strengths — something that Obama lacks, he said. Obama’s reluctance to put time into building better personal relationships has contributed to the bipartisan climate in Washington.

“He pays the price for it, but that’s the choice he made,” Halperin said.

Looking to the nearer future, Halperin thinks Obama faces challenges completing his original presidential goals. “[Obama] has to re-build trust in new initiatives,” he said.

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