Monday, January 07, 2008

Watch Your Step When Boarding

The primary season is heating up—as in, the Democratic nominee may be decided in two days. It felt like the primaries would take forever, yet suddenly on one side (the only side that matters! please Lord) they may be over in a flash. And I might ought to say something about what has happened in Iowa and is about to happen in New Hampshire. But first, a brief aside.

I am really interested in the reflections of 20-something lefty blogger-reporters (like Ezra Klein here and here, and Chris Hayes here and here, and Dana Goldstein here and here) who are being sent out on the campaign trail to file daily dispatches like regular Boys and Girls On The Bus.

(At this point I deleted a graf about why I think I identify with these youngsters. Let’s just say, I have idiosyncratic and fairly pathetic reasons. Oh to be young again, and have a different job…)

It's the stock in trade of bloggers to spray piss and vinegar at mainstream political reporters. Now some of these bloggers (and blog-fueled publications like the American Prospect) are putting their money where their mouth is, trying to do a better job at the function they have largely deplored.

I think they are doing fine. They are helping to highlight the fundamental problems, if not outright absurdity, of our primary system. (Ms. Goldstein's account of being mistaken for the person in charge of an Iowa caucus precinct is amusing and on-point.) Maybe I'm more tuned in somehow, but I don't remember as much talk in past years of how disorganized and in some ways undemocratic (small d) the caucus protocol is, and how it has monstrously outgrown its modest founding purpose.

What's more, the young turks are also giving some glimpses, from the newly-inside, of what the working existence of campaign correspondents is like. Some blog commenters seem hypervigilant for signs of their heroes' selling out to The Man, yet Chris Hayes especially has some sharp and sympathetic observations about the pack psychology of the press pool, and the practical problems or constraints that tempt reporters to focus on trivia and/or run with their cynical preconceptions.

Another brief note: uncharacteristically for me, I tuned in to MSNBC for awhile Saturday night to watch Tim Russert and his crew of old-guard journos opine from New Hampshire. I have never heard TV pundits talk so much about accusations that the media were skewing electoral outcomes. In retrospect, it was probably in response to desperate protests from the Hillary Clinton camp. The talking heads weren't quite copping to the charge, but they were acknowledging that it was out there.

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