...but not the folks who vote for those bad policies.

Governor Dennis Daugaard's director of policy and communications Tony Venhuizen said last night that it was "Not a great election for Republicans nationally. But it's shaping up to be a very strong showing for @SDGOP in South Dakota."

Governor Dennis Daugaard signs House Bill 1234 with Pierre bureaucrats watching and smiling.

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signs HB 1234, his education reform package, into law, March 2012. HB 1234 became Referred Law 16, which we killed last night.

Sure, Republicans had a typically good night here... if you ignore the fact that voters soundly rejected the two signature pieces of legislation proposed by Republican Governor Daugaard and the Republican majority in the Legislature.

We killed Governor Daugaard's corporate welfare slush fund by voting against Referred Law 14 56.7% to 43.3%. Referred Law 16, the Governor's ideologically driven education-wrecking scheme of merit pay, test-based teacher evaluations, and attacking the teacher's union, went down even harder, with South Dakotans voting 67.2% against it.

You want a real measure of how badly the Governor lost last night? Even though Initiated Measure 15, the extra-penny sales tax for K-12 education and Medicaid, went down in flames, the ugly fact for Governor Daugaard is that 37,000 more South Dakotans voted for a tax increase than voted for his education plan. That tax increase got nearly 12,000 more votes than Daugaard's corporate welfare plan. That's like saying more South Dakotans eat brie on baguettes than roast beef.

Steve Sibson asks the profound question of the morning: "Can anybody tell me why the voters would re-elect those who voted for and publicly supported RL14 and RL16?"

Profound indeed. Consider:

  • In District 8, Daugaard lapdog Senator Russell Olson voted and eagerly flacked for both RL14 and RL16. The four counties in District 16 voted against RL16 by rates of 68.6% (Lake) to 81.6% (Sanborn). They rejected RL14 by above-average margins as well. Yet they picked Olson over Democrat Charlie Johnson, who vociferously opposed both ballot measures, 63.4% to 36.6%.
  • In District 9, GOP Rep. Steve Hickey and Rep. Bob Deelstra both supported RL14, but Deelstra split from Hickey and the Governor and voted against RL16. With the exception of strange little Minnehaha precinct 3-9, District 9 soundly rejected RL16. Yet voters there appear (subject to recount!) to have picked Hickey over Deelstra. (District 9 at least had the good sense to pick Democrat Paula Hawks! Whoo-hoo!)
  • In District 22, GOP Rep. Jim White supported both RL14 and RL16. Beadle and Kingsbury County voters picked him over Democrat Chris Studer for Senate 54.4% to 45.6%.

I welcome readers to submit other examples and counterexamples. But it appears that while South Dakotans are perfectly capable of making sensible policy decisions at the polls, some profound cognitive dissonance keeps them from applying that thinking to their choices of candidates. In simplest terms, given names on a ballot, South Dakotans choose image, personality, and party label over policy, even when those policies are staring them in the face just a couple inches away on the same ballot.

My thesis that placing Referred Law 16 on the ballot would be good for Democrats has thus proven false. Alas.

Voters didn't see RL14 or RL16 as partisan issues; they saw them as simple policy questions. They rejected Governor Dennis Daugaard's answers to those policy questions. Tony and Dennis may be able to laugh off that rejection politically, resting on the certainty of winning 60% of the 2014 vote even if the Democrats run Jesus Christ against him.

But let us hope that, inside baseball aside, Team Daugaard can look at the results on this year's referenda and realize that even if South Dakotans love the heck out of Denny and his checked shirts, South Dakotans want a different direction on policy.