Via Matt Yglesias comes this link to a Mickey Kaus post that seems to be pretty much on the money. Surveying a few recent stories in the press, Kaus sees a trend of reporters playing down the Iowa caucuses:
Do I detect a tacit media conspiracy to make the Iowa caucuses inconclusive, and even irrelevant? I’m for that! … P.S.: It’s like the moment in mafia stories when the cops just get tired of the mobsters they’ve been corruptly cooperating with for years and decide it’s time to kill them. … The Iowa caucuses—shot while trying to escape…
Kaus is onto something here, and as he points out, some recent reporting from Iowa has shown a distinct road-weariness, as reporters pull back the curtain a bit on the whole process. The Washington Post checks in this morning with a piece describing Iowa as a place “where most people are indifferent and a small band of the politically active act as extras in the media’s stories from the heartland.”
The Post points out that only 6 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2004 Democratic caucuses, which equals about 125,000 people. And then the zinger:
If that number got much lower, voters might be outnumbered by the thousands of journalists, campaign staffers and volunteers who crowd Des Moines’s hotels, flights and restaurants, reading tea leaves to divine what the small minority of Iowa voters will do on Thursday.
Not to be outdone, The New York Times picks up the same theme today, going in-depth about how the vast majority of Iowans don’t participate in the process, due to time or work issues. This follows the Times‘Adam Nagourney’s almost sacrilegious piece yesterday that posited the unspeakable: What if Iowa doesn’t matter?
After weeks and months of telling us how important Iowa is, eleventh-hour stories poking holes in these narratives show up during every election cycle. And when they show up, it’s a sure sign that reporters are ready to head home - or at least to the next primary state.