Who would have thought that a handful of caucuses and a Louisiana primary would make a Saturday in March “super”?
But so it has.
The intensity of the 2016 race—or, at the very least, the determination of major media outlets to make every twist and turn on Donald Trump’s campaign trail into an epic pivot—is such that media outlets followed their March 1 “Super Tuesday” coverage by encouraging viewers to tune in for coverage of a March 5 “Super Saturday” that will include Democratic caucuses in Kansas and Nebraska and Republican caucuses in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine. Louisianans of both partisanships will cast the only primary votes. And, as “Super Saturday” gives way to what will surely be a very fine Sunday, Maine Democrats weigh in.
Should we bemoan the hype?
More attention to the electoral process is good. The usually neglected caucuses and primaries of smaller states that vote on weekends have always deserved attention. This is part of how nominees and presidents are chosen, part of what Walt Whitman celebrated as “the peaceful choice of all…these stormy gusts and winds [that] waft precious ships…” This is democracy in play, and our media ought to give it attention.
While the excitement surrounding Barack Obama’s candidacy in 2008 attracted a great deal of media coverage, this year’s campaign has literally taken over cable news, and much of broadcast news. Media outlets have come (after years of fostering the fantasy that Americans were not interested in politics) to recognize that the people really do care about what is done in their name by governments that should gain their legitimacy from voters—not the backroom scheming of campaign donors and lobbyists. Democracy can only work when it is out in the open and engaging, when people are drawn into the process rather than pushed away.
So it is good to get excited about “Super Tuesdays” and “Super Saturdays.”
This progression is a good one.
Unfortunately, the progression has been uneven—so uneven that is creating new challenges for democracy.
The full picture of what is happening in both parties is being obscured, as the character and content of the campaign is trumped by an obsessive focus on one man.
The easy media calculus on a “Super Saturday,” and on the next “Super Tuesday,” and on the “Super Tuesday” after that will be to cover anything and everything having to do with Donald Trump.