Yesterday, Democratic voters in fourteen states and American Samoa participated in our quadrennial contest, where we choose the contender for the upcoming presidential race. People flocked to the polls in overwhelming numbers, in many cases swamping the facilities and staff to register their selection.
Common wisdom has it that the winner on Super Tuesday will maintain their momentum through the rest of the campaign, raking in not only recognition but also increased vote counts and donations until the convention. But common wisdom has been somewhat silent on what happens when there’s no clear leader.
That doesn’t prevent the press from trying to tell us anyway.
Maine is sharply split three ways. With 91% reporting, Biden and Sanders are a negligible distance apart, with Warren hovering just above the 15% threshold. CNN tells us it’s a two-way tie, but CNN lies. Delegates will be selected at the party caucus on the 8th; if you’re a Warren supporter and you don’t go, Warren might not get her proportional award.
With half of California in and Sanders holding a commanding lead, CNN refuses to call the race. Yet with less than half of Texas reporting and a tight margin, CNN has declared Biden the clear winner and Bloomberg, who has a scant handful of votes separating him from irrelevance, the presumptive third place. Please note that exit polls have nothing whatsoever to do with the mail-in vote.
Meanwhile, The Guardian’s headline declares that “The Big Three” now have different paths going forward, naming Bloomberg to that top tier — and completely disregarding Warren, who leads him in delegates by any count. Tulsi Gabbard won her first delegate, and perhaps two, during yesterday’s contests. Continuing the media blackout on her campaign, nothing has been made of this achievement save in the most local press reports.
People may ask why this would matter, what the problem is. After all, California won’t even have all its ballots in before the end of the week; it’s a vote-by-mail state. Obviously we can’t presume a winner.
But California awards hundreds of delegates, as does Texas. The two states together have between them half of the total impact of the Super Tuesday votes. And the story for the next week is going to be about Biden’s commanding lead, completely ignoring the massive impact California will have on the numbers.
The lead story on MSNBC for the three days preceding this was Biden’s surge in South Carolina, as though that were some sort of surprise. Biden’s campaign focused there for months to the neglect of both Iowa and New Hampshire, neither of which he was expected to do well in. It is not news that he won, but it was painted as news. This gave him a patina of success, changing the narrative from him being half-senile and irrelevant to a potential winner — this despite the high likelihood that a debate between him and Trump would sound similar to one between two Furbys, each vying to be the most nonsensical.
You see? Even I am not immune to this strange conceit that the media can change the world by writing about it. And let’s be fair: There’s something to it, or Biden would have done quite poorly yesterday.
Let me be quite clear: I hold no resentment toward Uncle Joe; quite the reverse, in fact. I like, honor, and even admire him — as a man. He takes great pains at his Town Hall events to shake every hand that offers, to listen to every story and answer every question. He’s a man of the people and an expert campaigner. And he’s highly skilled at establishing a media narrative.
But can he defeat Trump? Voters seem to think so; that’s his major draw — but national polls show Sanders with a wider lead. It’s only the narrative that chooses him, not the data.
D.N.C. insiders prefer Biden to Sanders due to the projected impact on the down-ticket, on hotly contested House and Senate races, on governors and local legislatures. And that’s fine; they know election strategy, after all. They might even be right. But since when is it the job of the media to trumpet only those truths the insiders want spoken?
The press exists to present inconvenient truths alongside the common wisdom; to give praise where it’s due, aye, but to expose and condemn wherever that’s deserved. The goal of journalism is to show the world as it is, and perhaps as it should be, but never as the journalist would wish it to be. As reporters, we are — must be — detached or our observations lose their value and, inevitably, their audience.
And for you the voter: Remember, going forward, that your own vote is not governed by popular perception. Just because MSNBC tells you that Biden is the right man to vote for, you don’t have to believe them; just because I may disagree, you don’t need to believe me. Do your research; think for yourself; vote your heart and mind and soul.
Or you might as well stay home.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
When we consider what… is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left…”