A reader rings the Madville Times Tip Jar (there it is, in the sidebar, right below y'all's comments!) and includes this Election Day note:
I decided to vote twice today. One won't count for much in this State. But I know that each time I use my money to vote for you, it counts. Thanks for making a difference, Cory [reader Tip Jar message, 2012.11.06].
Thank you, friend.
The message is bittersweet. One guy blogging should not matter more than the casting of our ballots on the high holy day of democracy.
But in South Dakota, for Democrats, indeed, that ballot doesn't do much, at least not for electing candidates. Intelligent, enthusiastic, hard-campaigning Democrats Matt Varilek and Matt McGovern broke 40% (McGovern barely, contrary to polls that said he was close); Barack Obama and Nick Nemec did not. The Legislature was a wash for Dems, gaining 2 Senate seats but losing two House seats. We creamed the Governor's two referred laws, but even those glorious policy victories didn't translate into a bump for Democratic candidates. With 24 seats in its greater metro area (I'm counting Districts 6 and 9 through 15), Sioux Falls, which ought to be a bastion of urban liberalism, elected only 5 Democrats to the Legislature. I guess all the urban liberals leave the farm, stop for Starbucks at Target, and keep right on driving to Minneapolis.
In a remarkable election year when America acknowledged its real changes by re-electing Barack Obama (oh, the narrative of this election!), South Dakota piped up and said, "Nope! We're good with the same old Republicans!" New Dem chair Ben Nesselhuf tried and tried, but he didn't move the needle. We could replace Ben with Jesus himself, and we'd still get skunked.
I don't like to surrender. I never give up hope. And with the re-election of Barack Obama, the defeat of Daugaard's referred laws, and various victories nationwide against Tea party yahoo-ism, I head to work feeling pretty good about America today.
But South Dakota, O, South Dakota! I love you, I am part of you... but Dems, we just don't have much of a shot here. For now, perhaps for the foreseeable future, we need to resign ourselves to a singular quixotic mission: the calling of radical witness*. Amidst an impenetrable, impervious Republican majority, we must make our outnumbered voices even louder. We must represent and advocate those ideas to which the conservatives around us would shut their ears. We must give voice to the changes happening around our country and around the world.
That's radical witness. With no real power, with no organization to mount a successful political campaign, radical witness, speaking truth to power, is the best we Dems can do.
And that matters. It matters for us, for our souls, and for the leaders who someday will emerge and win South Dakota back for Democrats.
That's why I blog. That's why I keep blogging. Thank you, readers, for your support. Now spread the word!
*I take this phrase, radical witness, from William C. Pratt's "Another South Dakota, or the Road Not Taken: The Left and the Shaping of South Dakota Political Culture," in The Plains Political Tradition, edited by Lauck, Miller, and Simmons, SDSHS Press, 2011, p. 118.
Update 2012.11.18 19:50 MST: Republished in the Mitchell Daily Republic, 2012.11.18.