By Phillip Wynn, Senate District 41 Member
Personal note: I spent three Saturdays in January door-knocking for one of the candidates in Iowa. That gives me no special credentials for writing this post, but thought I’d just put it out there.
This post is in two parts. First is about the media reaction to Iowa. The second is my opinion about what we Democrats should take away from the Iowa experience.
Any of you who’ve raised children will recognize the struggle a parent faces in trying to teach their children delayed gratification. A toddler wants what it wants now now NOW! It takes a big step in maturation for a child to learn to postpone getting something it wants. It isn’t easy to do, as witnessed by the fact that many adults seem to have trouble with the concept of delayed gratification.
This seems especially the case with many members of the news media. I have to wonder: Did many of them struggle with learning delayed gratification when they were toddlers? That would explain a lot of the media reaction to the delayed results from the Iowa caucuses.
Full disclosure: I stopped watching TV news a few years ago, and that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Online news is better, and newspapers are still the best news source, in my opinion.
Still, even online I could tell that the morning after the caucuses, the big story was about what a horrendous fail the Iowa result had turned into. Run for the hills! The Democrats can’t even manage a dinky caucus! It’s a win for Trump! Dear God, we’re all going to DIE!
So as I’ve suggested, the best way to approach such stories is to regard the news media as acting like a frustrated toddler, stamping its foot and shouting, “I want it NOW!”
For you see, in its typical laziness and boneheadedness, the news media already had a narrative ready to go, the only thing missing being some blanks to fill in for the winners and losers of Iowa. Iowa was highlighted as the dramatic beginning of a dramatic horse race. Significant money had been invested in flashy graphics for the TV people, the “best” reporters had been assigned to the scene, theme music for the show had already been written and recorded. The only thing left was for the caucus-goers to do their thing, while the “reporters” zoned out into their cellphones, already knowing what they were going to say and how they were going to say it, the only mystery being who would play which role.
Instead what we got was one of the most dramatic displays of media ineptitude and cluelessness in the Trump era. The caucus-goers and the Democratic party didn’t play the role that had been assigned to them! We didn’t have results for the show that night! What are we going to do? Well, you know the one thing they wouldn’t do: look in the mirror for who to blame. So instead it’s those darned Democrats. They messed up! We were there and ready to cover it … and THEY messed up!
Sure, the app and all that. Yeah, there were problems. But if the media overreacted like a spoiled child, that doesn’t excuse Democrats buying into their bull, and overreacting themselves, taking on the narrative that the problems with the Iowa caucus constituted a dark day for the Democrats.
Baloney. Pure, unadulterated baloney. And the negativity of defeatism as well. We Democrats need to do all we can, inside ourselves and in our interaction with others, to avoid feeding this defeatism, because it will ensure defeat in November. There’s no need here to go into who the real winners and losers were in Iowa, especially because, as history tells us, the results aren’t dispositive in any case. And by that metric, the sane reaction to the Iowa situation among Democrats should be “meh”.
I’ve seen a lot of commentary about how bad the Iowa caucuses are, how Iowa shouldn’t be first, how it’s not representative, etc. etc. etc. In the here and now, I can’t see how such talk is anything other than a complete waste of time. The arguments against the role of the Iowa caucuses in the campaign are independent of the problems seen this year, and the two shouldn’t be conflated. Iowa is now behind us, no longer exists in the reality of the campaign NOW.
Let the news media continue to obsess about Iowa. They’ll move on soon enough, to cover the next thing in the campaign with the same tried-and-true and yet clueless approach.
We Democrats need to move on, too. Iowa? Meh.