Jeff Barth, the man to rebuild the South Dakota Democratic Party?

Jeff Barth, the man to rebuild the South Dakota Democratic Party?

Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth is the only Democrat so far to say he wants the job of state party chair. Barth isn't waiting for Rick Weiland to decide whether the chair would suit him; Barth has issued a hefty press release listing his qualifications and plans for the job.

I yield the floor to Barth's pitch for the job:

Jeff Barth a Democrat for State Chair

The position of State Party Chair has never been done perfectly. It has been done successfully. In seeking the position I plan for and expect success.

I bring to the position a number of important qualities.

Working for 31 years at the “Bell” telephone company climbing poles and digging holes I served my fellow workers as a steward, an officer and then as President of the Sioux Falls Trades & Labor Assembly.

As a faithful Democrat I have stuffed envelopes, made phone calls, gone door to door, collected signatures, run for public office and served in multiple Party positions. Twice I attended our State Convention as Minnehaha Chair, both times with a full slate of Delegates and Alternates.

  • Elected three times I am one offew Democrats to win in the 2010 and 2014, Republican Wave years.
  • I was the leading Democratic vote getter in Minnehaha County in 2014. Obama won Minnehaha in 2008 and our statewide candidates need to do well in Minnehaha to be elected.
  • The first candidate to appear on YouTube (in my 2006 campaign).

  • The first South Dakota candidate to have a campaign video to go viral.

  • I was the first statewide Democratic candidate to support gender equality in marriage and am a longtime supporter of Choice.

As a County Commissioner for eight years I have shared responsibility for administrating a $70M+ budget with a staff of over 500. Working as the only Democrat on the Board I have fought hard and been a sensible voice for all the people of my county. Pipelines, criminal justice, drainage, CAFOs, Ag property taxes, an aggressive “Big City” Mayor along with rapid growth are among the issues regularly addressed.

Of me David Montgomery with the Argus leader says “Barth is notably outspoken. In just recent months, he filed a lawsuit against Mike Rounds and others about EB-5 and has excoriated the county auditor for vote-counting delays.”

As your State Party Chair I will work with Staff to:

  • Continue the fight for Party funding within the State and elsewhere. I have already reached out to the DNC and others.
  • Travelacross the State building local parties and recruiting activists, young and old. From personal contact to Farmer Union meetings to Union Halls, from conferences to conventions from Pow Wows to Rodeos, I’ll go to where the people are. And, I will make it a priority for the Party staff to spend most of its time helping County parties do their job.  We can't have a healthy State party without well organized and robust County parties.
  • Engage minorities into leadership and as candidates for election. Our Party is too White.
  • Engage young people into leadership and as candidates and continue the Yell program. Our party is too old.
  • Hold regular Party meetings and clean up wording in our Constitution.

In asking for your vote I would remind everyone that, “Individuals can’t win. Factions don’t win. Teams win”.  I can do the job. Join the team.

Thank you,

Jeff Barth [e-mail, 2014.11.25]

South Dakota Democrats, is that the man and the plan for you?


What failures of our institutions of justice justify abandoning civic discourse and resorting to violent action to overthrow the powers that be?

That question consumed the founders of our nation. That question was not on the minds of most of the angry citizens out breaking and burning things last night. I see rage and riot tourism, but I don't see revolution.

I do wonder: do we face injustices so grave in a system with flaws so deep that we cannot rectify them by normal means? Is there any outrage in South Dakota or the United States of America that warrants an armed, organized revolt? How about...

  1. ...police turned into paramilitary squadrons?
  2. ...the feds and the Brits collaborating to spy on us through our computers?
  3. ...our Attorney General refusing to question, let alone bring charges against, a state employee who committed documented infractions of state law to cheat our state out of millions of dollars?
  4. ...the failure of the electoral process to prevent the consolidation of power in Pierre in the hands of one corrupt, pro-corporate party? (Sub-question: do we storm the Legislature or South Dakota Democratic Party headquarters?)
  5. ...the government seizure of private land and transfer of property rights to foreign corporations?
  6. ...state government handing millions to fat corporations while ignoring the economic plight of tens of thousands of Lakota citizens?
  7. ...state government handing millions to fat corporations while refusing to spend a fraction of that to prevent dozens of South Dakotans from dying?

Those issues don't have me calling on my neighbors to burn down the cop shop or steal some toilet paper. It's easy for us to effetely pontificate when it's not our kids the police are shooting, but then I've argued quite coldly on other issues that parents whose children have been killed aren't the best advocates for social action.

There is injustice in Ferguson, in Washington D.C., in Pierre, and in Pine Ridge. I don't think any injustice listed here or making today's headlines demands a violent uprising. I invite counterexamples from my fellow citizens of a nation founded in violent revolution.

If you can show me a valid counterexample, I will ask you more than the classic Grapes of Wrath question, "Who do we shoot?" (If you enlist English teachers in your revolution, that's "Whom do we shoot?") As we take up arms against our oppressors, I will ask you, "Once we've shot 'em, what will we replace 'em with? What better system will we create, and how will we ensure our system won't fall into the corruption we are uprooting now?"

If we're just smashing cars and shooting at cops, that's not revolution. That's revenge. That's anarchy. And that's not going to increase justice for anyone.


The South Dakota Democratic Party needs to channel Elizabeth Warren and adopt an unapologetic populist progressivism in defense of the working class. Rick Weiland speaks that Warrenesque language.

Rick Weiland also got beat 50–30 in the Senate election.

Down with Tyranny took a shine to Rick Weiland early in the Senate campaign. Sometime Weiland consultant and former McGovern/Abourwzk/Daschle chief of staff Peter Stavrianos takes to that blogs pages to tell Warren warriors like me to reread Weiland's 20-point deficit as a two-point near-miss for Weiland's message:

This conclusion is not wishful progressive thinking. It is based on a PPP tracking poll completed just two days before the election.

That astonishing survey showed Weiland trailed Rounds by just 2% in a race without Pressler, and was the second choice of the overwhelming majority of Pressler voters.

This was hardly surprising since the independent Pressler ran as a liberal reform candidate, loudly proclaiming he had voted for Obama twice, supported Obamacare, gay marriage, and had marched with Martin Luther King.

In a race without Pressler, Weiland and his message were 30-40% closer to victory than his ballot mate Democratic candidates for Governor and Congress [Peter Stavrianos, "Dead Armadillos? An Analysis Of The 2014 South Dakota Senate Race," Down with Tyranny, 2014.11.21].

I want to believe... but I can't, not this explanation. Here's why:

  1. I am unclear why anyone is still talking about hypotheticals. There was no such thing as a race without Pressler.
  2. What PPP tracking poll? I haven't seen any PPP tracking poll. Have you?
  3. If there was such a tracking poll two days prior to the election, it still makes little sense to parse that data when we have real election results to tell us the real story.
  4. Even if we give Weiland every one of Pressler's 47,741 votes (and that's absurd, because you know there were Republicans who picked Pressler to keep their conscience clean of Rounds's corruption but would still never vote for a Democrat), we still only wish Weiland to within 3.6 points of Rounds (within margin of error for our guesswork here, but Stavrianos should label that near-miss as within four points, not two).
  5. Update 20:49 CST [from a reader!]: And if we're playing fantasy one-on-one, aren't we obliged to reassign Gordon Howie's 3% as well? If Weiland gets every Pressler vote, Rounds gets every Howie vote, and by Stav's logic, we up to a seven-point "near-miss". [Update renumbers subsequent points!]
  6. Pressler did not loudly proclaim a liberal reform agenda. At no time did he align himself with Elizabeth Warren. His support for ObamaCare amounted to pragmatic resistance to repeal and never anything like Weiland's expansion of Medicare to a public option. Gay marriage and MLK Jr. were mentions, not centerpieces. Pressler fumbled abortion rights, for which he was hammered by Weiland backers. Pressler attacked the Keystone XL mythology but proposed hijacking it as part of his multi-pipe Bakken oil plan. To the end, Pressler talked centrism.
  7. The press agrees with me. None of the three papers that endorsed Pressler said, "He's got Rick's message plus special sauce!" The Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Mitchell papers all endorsed Pressler on experience and breaking gridlock, not on liberal ideology. The Sioux Falls paper called Pressler "moderately conservative."
  8. And as plausible counter-hypothesis, I contend that voters didn't vote for message. Voters voted for faces (Rounds was Governor for eight years; Pressler served us in Washington for 22) and the big shiny "R" with the flag, the gun, and the cross hanging on it.

Rick Weiland's populist, progressive message did not win the 2014 Senate election. It did not come close. That doesn't mean Warren progressivism is the wrong message. Far from it: Warren and Weiland both have the right message, the one worth fighting for.

Rick and I and other faithful Democrats just can't take Larry Pressler's showing on November 4, 2014, as a validation of that message. We still have lots of work to do to educate voters in 2016, 2018, and beyond.


Following Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth's announcement that he'd like to chair the South Dakota Democratic Party, the Meade County Democrats are spending money to promote a different candidate:

Meade County Democrats, sponsored Facebook post promoting Rick Weiland for SDDP chair, screen cap 2014.11.24

Meade County Democrats, sponsored Facebook post, screen cap 2014.11.23

A lot of People for Rick Weiland want him to be the next Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, and we want it too. D.C. Democrats let us down in 2014, not SD Dems. Rick is the best person to present our populist message over the next few years... and to help prevent the Keystone XL pipeline from crossing Meade County! [Meade County Democrats, sponsored Facebook post, downloaded 2014.11.23]

I see no official report that Weiland is seeking to chair the SDDP. The State Central Committee will elect a new chair at its next meeting on December 13.


Governor Dennis Daugaard deserves all the guff we can give him for reneging on his no-new-taxes promise to consider a gasoline-tax increase. Acknowledging that we don't spend enough on our roads and bridges is an important repudiation of the Republican sloganeering that would have us believe that public goods grow on free-market trees. Roads don't just happen; communities build them with taxes.

But Governor Daugaard deserves credit for screwing up the courage to focus on transportation at a time when Congress appears incapable of getting anything done. The lame-duck session is ticking away with zero accomplishments. Congress stages a cynical political ploy to express its support for one private pipeline that won't help any American drive to work, then goes home for Thanksgiving. But both parties ignore the Highway Trust Fund, which we urgently need to replenish in order to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges:

Ray LaHood: That's the pot of money that over 50 years helped us create the best interstate system in the world, which is now falling apart.

Steve Kroft: Why? How did it get this way?

Ray LaHood: It's falling apart because we haven't made the investments. We haven't got the money. The last time we raised the gas tax, which is how we built the interstate system, was 1993.

Steve Kroft: What has the resistance been?

Ray LaHood: Politicians in Washington don't have the political courage to say, "This is what we have to do." That's what it takes.

Steve Kroft: They don't want to spend the money? They don't want to raise the taxes?

Ray LaHood: That's right. They don't want to spend the money. They don't want to raise the taxes. They don't really have a vision of America the way that other Congresses have had a vision of America [Steve Kroft, "Falling Apart: America's Neglected Infrastructure," CBS: 60 Minutes, 2014.11.23.

In at least suggesting that he'll set aside his election-year slogans and seek more tax revenue to maintain our roads, Governor Daugaard is showing a little more leadership and vision than our Congressional delegation. Let's hope our Legislature can follow the Governor's (and more importantly, Senator Mike Vehle's) lead, drop the campaign trail baloney, educate the voters as to the proper role of government, and fill some potholes.


Iowa Democrats didn't get beat up as badly as South Dakota Democrats in the midterms. Iowa Democrats lost some but not all statewide races, and they still hold a slim majority in their State Senate. But they are talking seriously about going into "rebuilding mode." What are they focusing on? Des Moines reporter Kathie Obradovich talks to Iowa Dems and summarizes the rebuilding plan thus:

That's a lot to pack in the Democrats' Acme Kit for Party Revival: Unifying leadership, a stronger message and a 99-county organization — plus the ability to raise lots of money and fast [Kathie Obradovich, "Democrats Need Inspiration, Message, Cash," Des Moines Register, 2014.11.22].

More easily said than done, I know, but South Dakota Democrats, take notes! If you're running for party chair (Jeff Barth for sure, maybe Rick Weiland? Ann Tornberg? others?), be ready to tell us how you'll build bridges with factions within the party and friends without, sharpen the Democratic message into effective rallying cries, and engaging grassroots activists in every county?


Independent-Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is awfully popular among progressives. He may run for President in 2016. Our modern Eugene V. Debs tells NPR that Democrats could get their traction back by rediscovering the working class:

...people look out and they say, "Gee, the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well." And where are the Democrats? Do people see the Democratic Party standing up to Wall Street? Any of these guys going to jail? Not really. The average person is working longer hours, lower wages, and they do not see any political party standing up and fighting for their rights. What they see is a Republican Party becoming extremely right wing, controlled by folks like the Koch brothers. But they do not see a party representing the working class of this country [Bernie Sanders, interview with Steve Inskeep, "Sen. Bernie Sanders on How Democrats Lost White Votes," NPR: It's All Politics, 2014.11.19].

Senator Sanders sounds an awful lot like our own Rick Weiland. Does that make Weiland a socialist... or just the right man to lead the South Dakota Democratic Party back to its mission and electoral success?

Senator Sanders recommends the sort of socialism that South Dakotans of both parties love—big federal investment in infrastructure:

...whether you're white or black or Hispanic or Asian, if you are in the working class, you are struggling to keep your heads above water. You're worried about your kids. What should the Democratic Party be talking about, Steve? What they should be talking about is a massive federal jobs program. There was once a time when our nation's infrastructure — roads, bridges, water systems, rail — were the envy of the world. Today that's no longer the case [Sanders, 2014.11.19].

Roads, bridges, water systems—we could be building real public goods that would put millions of Americans to work and serve the national interest, but a majority of Senators in the pocket of Big Oil think it's more important to authorize a private foreign oil pipeline that would hurt the U.S. economy and the working class.

Senator Sanders likely won't derail the Clinton nomination. But his exhortation to working-class politics could point Rick Weiland and South Dakota Democrats the route toward votes in 2016.


Thought you wouldn't have Larry Pressler to kick around any more? Think again.

Yesterday, Pressler released remarks he prepared for a speech he's making today to the Farmers Union Foundation in Aberdeen. The former Senator continues to press his "Pressler Pipeline Plan" to reroute Keystone XL through North Dakota to carry Bakken crude to Midwest refineries instead of piping tar sands oil down to the Gulf and away to China.

There is a great need to build one or two new pipelines across North Dakota, and the right-of-way for them already exists. The Midwestern refineries in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois are currently under capacity, and diesel fuel would be about $1 cheaper than having it refined in Louisiana.

It is more environmentally friendly to move crude oil and distillates by pipeline and we need to free up our railroad equipment to haul more grain. South Dakota farmers need rail access to get their grain to market, and having two pipelines in North Dakota to carry oil will relieve railroad congestion [Larry Pressler, press release, 2014.11.20].

I still prefer preaching conservation (we should less oil and less of the corn syrup to which most of that surplus ag freight is destined), but Pressler's economic details are better than anything our deluding Big-Oil-mouthpiece delegation will offer.

Larry Pressler, still on the hunt...

Larry Pressler, still on the hunt...

Getting into the swing, Pressler fires off another press release today, this one with three little ticklers. Humboldt's most famous John Deere jockey says he plans to "will work for centrist, independent, moderate thinking in politics." He says contributions to the foundation will be tax-deductible, which I assume means he plans to form a 501(c)3, which can register voters, encourage voting, maybe even form a think tank and host events featuring like minded Indies and centrists but cannot contribute to candidates.

O happy Independence and not having to check with Party Central to make sure he won't hurt anyone's feelings by forming his group! Two recommendations, Mr. Pressler:

  1. The Pressler Foundation should host a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates between prominent political figures on significant South Dakota political issues. Formulate clear resolutions, require speakers to stay on topic and focus on policy, and have you and other centrists serve as strict moderators and judges at the events. (First speakers: Stace Nelson vs. me!)
  2. Use these events and other fundraising to raise money to support and expand speech activities in South Dakota. Nothing promotes independent, rigorous, policy-oriented thinking better in our fair state than high school debate and Student Congress.

Along with promoting independent thinking, Pressler suggests we could also use some ballot education:

Several people told me they mistakenly double voted, as they innocently believed they could vote for two, and of course that invalidated their vote. There is a lot of misunderstanding about independent candidacies [Larry Pressler, Facebook message, 2014.11.21].

Clip from South Dakota general election sample ballot, 2014

Clip from South Dakota general election sample ballot, 2014

Several people? What? O.K., nothing personal folks, but we're voting for Senator. Yes, we have two Senators, but, as the ballot says, underlined, in bold, we only get to vote for one at a time. It doesn't matter how many guys are running for that one spot; you still only get to pick one... at least until the Pressler Foundation successfully passes an initiative to allow instant run-off/ranked-choice voting. (But oh my; if we can't mark bubbles correctly, can we handle marking our top picks 1, 2, 3?)

But before he launches a foundation or agitates for ballot education reform, Pressler's has to pay the bills:

Meanwhile, I have a more immediate task. Our campaign raised only a total of about $200,000, largely from individual contributions such as yours. I know you have contributed, and I have asked, and some of you have contributed again, and while I do feel a bit audacious and embarrassed (but not apologetic), I do have a $250,000 deficit. I will probably pay it myself, but if you have not reached the $2,600 limit, I would ask that you consider contributing more [Pressler, 2014.11.21].

According to the FEC, Pressler reported being $355K in the hole on October 15, so he's made $105K worth of progress. But we should all appreciate the softest sell in any campaign finance pitch this year: I'll probably pay it myself, but if you want to help, that's o.k.

If Pressler is willing to drop that much of his own cash to close out his campaign, it will be interesting to see how much of his own cash and time he'll be willing to dedicate to promoting further political discussion along the centrist lines he desires.


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