The Democrats have voted to make South Carolina the first primary state in 2024. Great! It’s diverse and accurately foretells Super Tuesday. We’ll no longer have to listen to the media spend next winter pretending that Iowa and New Hampshire are going to tell us anything about who’s going to be the nominee.
Iowa and New Hampshire have solid roles. It’s good to see people who want to be the world’s most powerful person having to humbly win over people in rural coffee shops. But the nearly all-white Iowa and New Hampshire vote totals never point to who will actually be the nominee. Remember when Pete Buttigieg narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Caucus in 2020? How did Super Tuesday go for either of them?
South Carolina should be first, both because it’s a more accurate indicator of how the rest of the nation will vote in the primary, and because it’s more fair to voters. It’s the first time Black people get to vote in the primary process. They’re the backbone of the Democratic Party. Representation matters.
But even making South Carolina first won’t solve the underlying problem: no matter how you set up the primary calendar, the media will still cover the proceedings dishonestly in the name of chasing ratings.
People still tell me they’re shocked that I knew Biden would be the nominee even while he was getting drubbed in Iowa and New Hampshire. It wasn’t difficult to foresee. He was way ahead in South Carolina the entire time, which always tells you how candidates will do on Super Tuesday.
In 2020, not only did the media pretend Biden was doomed because of the (nationally irrelevant) Iowa and New Hampshire results, it also dishonestly represented the South Carolina polls to make it look like Biden was in danger of losing there, when the polls actually had him way ahead.
Even before the Clyburn endorsement, most polls had Biden up by about 15 points in South Carolina. Yet major news outlets including MSNBC latched onto one ridiculous outlier poll that supposedly had South Carolina nearly tied, and hyped it as if it were the only poll, in order to build suspense and drive ratings. Then when Biden won South Carolina in a blowout, the media covered its tracks by pretending Biden only won South Carolina due to the last minute Clyburn endorsement.
So for all the strong reasons to change the order of the primary states, it still won’t protect us from the reality that the (entire) media will still spend the primary season lying to us about what’s going on, in the name of building hype and chasing ratings.
The media’s insistence on lying to us can only be changed via one method: all of you becoming knowledgeable, savvy, skeptical, and disciplined enough to spot the media’s lies in real time, and call it out instead of allowing yourself to be manipulated by it. It shouldn’t be your job, but it is.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report