By Laura Matusheski, University of Delaware sophomore and intern for the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication
Visit the National Agenda page to learn more about the National Agenda 2019 speaker series including "Speaking from the Left" with Dan Pfeiffer and "Speaking from the Right" with Tara Setmayer.
MAY 11, 2020—America's political landscape is dominated by two opposing parties, but what if it were on a spectrum? Is there a way to understand each other from the other side, especially in a time of global crisis? At a virtual "Happy Hour" on Zoom, hosted by National Agenda Director Lindsay Hoffman, Ph.D., guests Dan Pfeiffer and Tara Setmayer discussed how Americans can meet across the aisle.
After the University of Delaware transitioned to online instruction last March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Hoffman invited current National Agenda students and alumni to attend weekly reunions, featuring past National Agenda speakers as surprise guests. On April 29, Hoffman welcomed Pfeiffer and Setmayer, who spoke at the 2019 series on September 6 and October 2, respectively.
Pfeiffer, a former communications director and senior advisor to President Barack Obama, joined the first 30 minutes of the Zoom conversation. In 2017, he began co-hosting Pod Save America, a politically progressive podcast. Pfeiffer is also a political activist and New York Times best-selling author of two novels. A native Delawarean, he resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and daughter.
National Agenda alumna Natalie Haytayan (AS19), a production coordinator at VICE Media, said reporting on politics during a pandemic is exhausting and feels like “a pressure cooker.” She wondered how he manages the constant barrage of political news.
“I’ve always lived in politics,” Pfeiffer responded, “but the things that we used to be able to enjoy we no longer have. And we can no longer get the break we need. Early on during quarantine, I made myself watch the Trump press conference every day. After a while, I felt like I couldn’t do this every day, both physically and emotionally.” He also noted how important it is to carve out leisure time in your daily life in order to stay sane amidst the crisis.
Another alumna, Georgina Class-Peters (AS16, 17M), noticed how much the COVID-19 outbreak has pulled at the heartstrings of news reporters, and how they are talking more personally when asking political leaders questions about our future. She asked him if this will have a lasting impact on journalism as a whole, and whether journalism as we know it is gone forever.
“There will always be a place for “just-the-facts” journalism. But in a social media-driven world, we are moving more towards it.” he said, “The question will be whether consumers of media catch up to this.” With the constant bombardment of news, he recognized, it makes it harder to find specific pieces of information. In turn, this has made consumers of media overwhelmed with news, and as he calls it: “uncomfortably numb.” Podcasts will not replace news media, said Pfeiffer, but added they will help immerse their audience into the depths of a variety of topics.