Mud pit media

In an election year when the unexpected is truly the only common denominator of presidential politics, I will not even venture to prognosticate what the Iowa Caucus results mean for the future. That would put LEO, and me, in the irresponsible media-speculation mud pit, and they don’t pay me enough to be that irresponsible. Instead, I think it’s time to call a spade, a spade — if this process is the King of Spades, the King is completely nuts and needs to be institutionalized. 

I don’t know what the right nominating process is, or should be, for either or both political parties. What I do know is this is not it. 

If the purpose of a nominating process is for both parties to accurately nominate a candidate who is reflective of their party, then the Republicans may be in the ballpark. However, if the purpose is to nominate a candidate who reflects America, and therefore has the broad appeal to win a national election, then neither party even hits the board. 

Iowa is too white: 92 percent white, while the U.S. is 77 percent.  

Iowa is too rural: While the U.S. is, on average, home to over 80 people per square mile, Iowa is under 55. The largest city in Iowa is Des Moines, with a population just over 200,000, which is one-third the size of Louisville. Iowa, with a total population of of just over three million, is only worth six electoral votes. The Commonwealth of Kentucky is home to nearly four and a half million people, and over 100 people per square mile — and I don’t think Kentucky will ever be mistaken for an urban epicenter. 

So outside of being a swing state, with a seldom-important six electoral votes, it has zero general election appeal. And if my math is correct, only once in history would Iowa’s six votes have even made a difference in the outcome of the election; in 2000 when Bush “won” the election by five electoral votes. (Hey Iowa, thanks. That was great. Thanks.)

Then there is the myth that the caucuses are a unique, important format, and that Iowans are engaged and make an important statement on the process. This is simply not true. Using the Republicans as an example, at this year’s caucus their party turned out an estimated record 180,000 Iowans. The previous record, set in 2012, was just over 120,000. So to drive home the worthlessness of the Iowa Caucuses, in a state of three million people, the world and the media spend months and millions waiting to hear the voice of six percent (four percent in 2012) of the whitest, most rural of American states.

And make no mistake, the aforementioned irresponsible media mud pit is solely to blame. If forced, Iowa would lobby to keep their place at the front of the line, like coal companies lobby Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to fight the EPA. But Iowa doesn’t have to fight it, because the media would never give up the weeks and months of special election coverage. It’s the equivalent of the NFL moving more games to Thursday and Monday nights — why make millions on one day of the week when you can make billions by drawing it out to three days of the week? (Screw what’s best for the fans.)

This media money-suck is a symptom of the larger problem of profiting off of American politics. It wears a different mask than the billions spent on super PACs and buying political influence, but it is still the same ugly disease. 

What’s the definition of insanity? Continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result. This needs to change. 

The political pundit noise machine (at least that I watched) ripped into Clinton and her campaign for declaring victory while the media still had the race “too close to call.” Several speculated how damaging it would have been “if” she and her campaign were wrong about the victory. The next morning, she was declared the winner in Iowa, albeit by the slightest. 

The media has also been orgasmic over the “tightening” of the race between Clinton and Bernie Sanders — one that “nobody saw coming.” It may be the case that people would not have expected Iowa to be as close as it was, but they talk about Sanders “closing” a 50-point Clinton lead like it was a sporting event. Not one of those polls was a score. That is the equivalent of publishing preseason rankings before even knowing who the teams are. The 50-point margins in polls from last May are completely meaningless, and to use them as arguments against Clinton (or anyone) is just plain irresponsible (particularly when you’re talking about a warped caucus system, where only tiny percentage of a voter group that is totally non-reflective of the entire country participates).

This is the mud pit media. I am more convinced than ever that as much as money has deranged our politics, it has equally deranged the media’s coverage of politics, and special-interest political spending is just as damaging as ratings-driven dollars. Now, I just can’t wait until the mud pit comes to Kentucky for Rand Paul’s Caucus.