Okay, we have all been in positions in our life in which we needed to do something absolutely the right way or there would be hell to pay. I have had lots of those moments, particularly when I was newspapering in my prime, writing election leads in presidential contests or covering Super Tuesdays or whatever. You knew that the most important role of all in these challenges amounted to three words you repeated in your head again and again. “Don’t Fuck Up!’ Not the kinds of things you could write in your journalism texts, but very dependable internal warnings that had you reading everything three or four times just to make sure it had that flow. If it all worked out, some boss would come over at the end of the night and say “Nice work.” Then it would be time for a drink or two or four!
But that was in the professional world of high pressure journalism. Apparently there is no such place in Iowa politics, or we would have had the caucus results yesterday, when the caucus was over! But no. Maybe later today, we are told, as most of the entourage of candidates and media have rushed to New Hampshire to explain why THAT is so important. Some cold water on that campfire, if you will: Iowa represents only itself, and apparently not that well. So I think it’s time to boil that cabbage down and eat it for dinner.
Iowa is important because media makes it important by paying too much attention to it. It’s basically a white soy bean farm out on the plains and lots of waitresses in bad little snack shops who get quoted too much. The same process happens in New Hampshire, but at least it has some rolling hills and mountains and cellphone towers wearing tree disguises, an intriguing fiction if ever there was one. Journalism loves cliches because it’s the only thing it creates that has lasting value. Long after newspapers are gone (and that will be coming quite soon I fear) the cliches it constructed around political reporting will live on. I can’t wait to get to South Carolina to get some pie and coffee in an all black diner where everyone is full of grit and local wisdom. Or Florida, for that matter. I suspect most of the people there are from Canada but that won’t stop in the construction of political cliches. This process rolls across most of the 50 states and doesn’t end until the last contest is resolved around next Christmas. So don’t get bent out of shape over Iowa. Save that for Super Tuesday!