Lest anyone get too excited about Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's strong showing in the Madville Times Easter poll on potential South Dakota Senate candidates, here's a reminder that SHS's Blue Doggery still sticks in the craw of some members of the Democratic base:
Blue Dogs like to say they're "just" fiscal conservatives. They are fiscal conservatives and almost always vote against economic justice, against the interests of working families and in the interests of the Wall Street banksters and corporations that subsidize their cushy careers. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was a 3 term Rep from South Dakota and Blue Dog chairman until she was defeated, 48.1% to 45.9%, in the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010. She managed to amass one of the most right-wing voting records of any Democrat in Congress -- and not just on fiscal conservatism. She could almost always be counted on to back the Republicans on nearly their entire reactionary agenda. Let's take LGBT equality, since it's so much in the news lately. She's wasn't just against equality. There is no other way to describe Stephanie Herseth Sandlin than as a vicious homophobic bigot and hatemonger and dedicated, gratuitous enemy of LGBT families [Howie Klein, "Far Right Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin Is Lusting for a DC Comeback," Down with Tyranny, 2013.03.29].
I would not use such vicious language to describe Zach's mom. This language comes from Howie Klein, strong liberal activist and blogger from Los Angeles. In his Friday post, he points to Herseth Sandlin's 2004 vote for a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Klein expresses further left-wing angst with Herseth Sandlin's 2009 votes against the American Clean Energy and Security Act (which included a cap-and-trade provision for carbon emissions) and against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and her acceptance of significant donations from the National Rifle Association. Given this record, Klein declares our gal Stephanie "unqualified to run for office as a Democrat."
Klein says "normal" South Dakota Democrats are pushing for U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson to run for Senate. Funny: Johnson has done good equal rights work in his current job, but I haven't heard him issue policy statements (and I wouldn't expect him to, not as U.S. Attorney) on gay marriage, cap and trade, ObamaCare, or the NRA that would put left-wing-celebratory daylight between himself and SHS.
Klein's language may be extreme, but his point matters: to Democratic observers outside South Dakota, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin looks like a Republican. Maybe we don't cotton to out-staters interfering in our politics (and there are a bunch of Republicans hoping to heck that out-state conservatives don't get involved in a Senate primary against that darned conservative faker M. Michael Rounds). But frankly, South Dakota Democrats can use all the help they can get. Rep. Kristi Noem had enough GOP cred to get out-of-state Republicans to send her over $1.3 million to help her beat Matt Varilek in 2012. If South Dakota Dems want to keep their Senate seat and win back the House, they might do well to find candidates who can fire up the base here and abroad.
Klein's commentary reminds us that Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will still have some trouble lighting that fire. The big question will be whether she or any South Dakota willing to run can win enough dollars and votes from the middle to succeed without tapping the pool of avid progressive supporters.