The knives are out for one of the most established entities this political season. Both key members of the media and much of the populace have apparently turned against an organization that seemed destined for four more years of the status quo. As a result, America could look completely different in 2012. Iowa caucus, it might be time to take your final bow as unearned bellwether for the (still) most important job in the free world.
From Slate.com's Christopher Hitchens to The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, the pundits are seething through newsprint and computer screens about how members of a homogenous state with only seven electoral votes - citizens that have hours to spend milling about - will create the national tone for the rest of the election season.
Of course, the Iowa caucus literally proves little. In a media vacuum, it's not even close to the most important primary state for candidates. And if the media this week adhere to the chidings of its columnists and temper their prognostications based on the results, the figurative effect could likewise be insignificant.
That won't happen, however. The media won't be able to help themselves, even if they realize such coverage tempts self-fulfilling prophecies. After months and months of campaign promises, debates devoid of much substance, and polls that contradict one another, the working press now have the major narrative to help splinter their coverage into many directions and create column inches, segments, and page views out of virtually nothing.
By the time our next issue hits, the results will have been in for a few days. And the narrative will have commenced. And while the ensuing coverage will be based on flawed data, it is important in a diatribe against inaccuracy to note that the media should not get too much credit on their ability to influence all voters.
For instance, if the Iowa caucus goers selected John Edwards, then clearly the reams of news that claimed Edwards was doomed or Hillary was unstoppable had little influence over the Iowa public. However, that won't stop pundits from declaring, for example, that a third-place showing for Obama will effectively neuter his chances based on the fact that the media will be reporting it as such.
Clearly, the campaign advisers whose candidates fail to get the numbers they anticipated will seek to invalidate the "meme" coming out of the Hawkeye State. But if those numbers were beneficial, they'd just as easily hold up Iowans as the perfect representations of how the rest of the country will vote.
But campaign aides' sole purpose is to get their candidates elected. This doesn't absolve them of guilt, but at least they're doing their jobs. So the guilty culprit in the misinforming of Americans are reporters and editors who I expect will be pushing incorrect "trends" while failing to do their jobs - informing the public of credible and factual information.
Members of the media are very wary of deception after the bevy of scandals that have befallen the journalistic enterprise and the Iraq intelligence concerns. But what if they are the deceiver?