I must have missed the meeting where everything was decided, but the mainstream media has set the field for the 2016 presidential race. For the Democrats, it will be former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. For the Republicans, it will be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but only after he wrests the nomination away from Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul after a hard fought march to the convention.
Don't believe me? Just take a look at the narrative as it is unfolding. Everything Mrs. Clinton does is newsworthy and attests to her gravitas and leadership abilities. Unless it also involves the He-Clinton and proves embarrassing, at which point she is gently moved into the background.
Christie's pronouncements on everything are analyzed for the way they will change national Republican policy – even though he has yet to win re-election as governor of New Jersey or to show he has any kind of electoral strength beyond his own state. And Rand Paul, who is right now probably the most original politician on the national scene, gets generous coverage for his theatrics on the Senate floor while his policy ideas are treated with a disdainful kind of skepticism that consigns them to the ashcan as unrealistic and unworkable.
Given that the national press corps votes overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate for president, whoever it might be, this should come as little surprise. It is, however, breathtaking in the lack of curiosity it displays on the part of the media. No one appears interested in hunting for a story, looking for the dark horse, or adding anything remotely interesting to the discussion that is outside the conventional wisdom.
Has Martin O'Malley really done nothing as governor of Maryland for eight years that makes him worthy of being considered for the Democratic nomination? Is Andrew Cuomo really so ineffective as governor of New York that he does not deserve at least half the attention Hillary Clinton gets as a possible candidate for the nation's highest office?
On the Republican side it is even worse, as Christie, a northeastern Republican with a strong following among the Wall Street crowd, is not exactly representative of the national GOP. He's not far off, and he's won deserved plaudits for the way in which he's taking on New Jersey's public employee unions, but those who watch his policies carefully say there's a lot more smoke and sizzle than there is steak.
Surely, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who may actually succeed in his effort to abolish his state's income tax, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former House Budget Committee chairman who, with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich, wrote budgets that actually produced surpluses while in Congress or Rick Snyder, who led union-heavy Michigan into the ranks of the right-to-work states, deserve the kind of national attention that Christie is getting.
Fortunately for the voters, social media provides other outlets for political information that blunts the mainstream media's ability to pick the next set of nominees. The television networks and newspapers are still powerful, but they are no longer the only source of information. Candidly, some of the best and sharpest political reporting now comes not from traditional news outlets but from blogs that look at the issues and personnel and fund-raising that makes and breaks modern campaigns.
The next election is a long way off. If journalism really is a public trust, then political reporters will broaden their coverage of the potential nominees to provide a running narrative of what each is doing, rather than take the easy way out by pre-anointing the future nominees of the two major political parties.