Minority Leaders Sutton and Hawley must feel like Dwarves watching the Goblins and Wargs marching their way, with no prospect of Great Eagles swooping in to save South Dakota for democracy.

Reid Wilson of the Washington Post reports that Republicans across the country plan to press their advantage in state legislatures this year:

The unprecedented breadth of the Republican majority — the party now controls 31 governorships and 68 of 98 partisan legislative chambers — all but guarantees a new tide of conservative laws. Republicans plan to launch a fresh assault on the Common Core education standards, press abortion regulations, cut personal and corporate income taxes and take up dozens of measures challenging the power of labor unions and the Environmental Protection Agency [Reid Wilson, "Republicans in State Governments Plan Juggernaut of Conservative Legislation," Washington Post, 2015.01.02].

Wilson doesn't get anyone from South Dakota on the record waving the culture-war colors. Instead of digging for Senator Phil Jensen to reveal his next move in fighting gay bullies or for Senator Dan Lederman to lay out this year's ALEC agenda, Wilson talks to boring (in this context, that's a compliment!) Senator Deb Peters:

“With the increasing costs of Medicaid and education, balancing the budget is going to be a challenge,” said South Dakota state Sen. Deb Peters (R), who chairs the Appropriations Committee [Wilson, 2015.01.02].

Never mind that we won't get around to balancing the budget until the end of the session. I'd say we have nine harrowing weeks during which our Republican legislators will do all they can to keep up with the conservative antics of their colleagues across the country. Forget quiet: with no great economic uptick to fire imaginations with mad money (like that billion-dollar surplus across the border in Communist Minnesota) and with the apparent resistance of the Republican leadership to wielding their resounding popular mandate for bold policy initiatives, the temptation will be there for aspiring legislators to make their mark with culture-war headlines.

And with so few voices of reason sitting to the Speaker's right, some of those crazy bills just might pass.

Senator Sutton, Rep. Hawley, stand and speak boldly against the conservative juggernaut.


As we discuss the merits of different districting schemes for better democratic representation, David Newquist notes that our Congressional delegation is leaving northeastern South Dakota out in the cold on constituent service:

When Democrats were in office, Aberdeen had three offices carrying on the business of government. Now it is down to the one office that John Thune grudgingly established when his party supporters insisted that he have a presence in our part of the state.

Noem has never offered much in the way of response or service to this part of the state. Rounds has indicated he will follow her lead.

The voters ultimately get what they ask for. In the cases of Noem and Rounds, nothing [David Newquist, "No Access to Congress for Aberdeen," Northern Balley Beacon, 2014.12.28].

Newquist provides a description worth reading of the value good staffers add for constituents on the ground.

If you're thinking that Rounds and Noem are shunning Aberdeen as a partisan swipe at all those Herseth/Wismer/Knecht Democrats up in northeastern South Dakota consider these election numbers: Nearby Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties picked Rick Weiland over Mike Rounds by slim margins (5%, 0.5%, and 1.5%, respectively). Brown County itself, which Aberdeen seats, gave Rounds an eleven-point edge. To the west, Rounds doubled up and more on Weiland, 54–24, while Charlie Hoffman and his neighbors delivered McPherson County to Rounds 66–17. Noem beat Corinna Robinson in all six of those counties this year, from a 9.5-point margin in Day to 63.8 points in McPherson.


My friends on the far Right have a thing for threat-maximization rhetoric. When they want to criticize a problem, they don't just say, "Hey, here's a problem." They say, "Great God! This problem is the greatest threat to American Freedom!"

Bob Ellis this weekend declares that "the greatest and most pressing threat to the American republic" is RINOs, Republicans In Name Only.

That greatest and most pressing threat evolves quickly. In the past, Ellis and other authors he piles onto his blogs have applied that superlative threat status to...

  1. Islam (October 8, 2007)
  2. Barack Obama playing God (August 25, 2009);
  3. "not pass[ing] on what it means to be American to this generation" (June 9, 2010);
  4. electromagnetic pulse (December 2, 2010);
  5. "Main Stream Secular Media" (September 27, 2012);
  6. homofascism (November 1, 2012);
  7. "runaway, out-of-control, unconstitutional government" (December 19, 2013);

But Bob Ellis has fish to fry, so it's time to turn that superlative heat on Mike Rounds and other ascendant Republicans who, says Ellis, turned their back on the Gingrich Contract with America, plunged America into debt in the Bush II years, and opened the door for Barack Obama's Leftist takeover:

In 1994, America gave Republicans control of both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. The American people did this because Congressman Newt Gingrich and other Republicans offered the people a “Contract With America,” a bold and unabashedly conservative agenda to turn back forty years of largely unrestrained liberalism.

Unfortunately, Republicans in congress lost their guts/backbone/anatomy-of-your-choice in a few short years, and paved the way for spending during the George W. Bush years that frankly made drunken sailors look frugal.

This, coupled with forcing “It’s My Turn Now” RINO John McCain on the Republican electorate, paved the way for a Democrat Congress and the most liberal president available–arguably the most liberal president in history.

Thanks to the dereliction of RINOs, we got ObamaCare (not that the RINOs minded that much), an IRS to target conservative groups, an all-out war on marriage, a war on energy and the livelihood of the American people,executive amnesty and more.

Now we have elected a fresh crop of worthless RINOs who can’t wait to surrender to the liberal agenda.

The “Republican” leadership and a some freshly elected “Republicans” are falling all over themselves to surrender to the Leftist agenda…even as America reaches the point of no return, and salvation from the abyss of this irresponsible behavior may quickly become impossible.

Is it becoming clear why I said RINOs are the greatest and most pressing threat to the American republic right now? [emphasis and links in original; Bob Ellis, "Watch for the RINO Watch," American Clarion, 2014.12.28]

Ellis steeps his critique of his quisling party in language and pictures of war. The big war is still the war The Left is fighting to destroy "our economy, our energy infrastructure, the prosperity of our people, our families, our independence, our freedom" (yes, because real people like me who have families and enjoy freedom want to destroy all that). But the RINOs are enemies within Ellis's own camp, wearing Ellis's uniform and attacking from within.

I thus offer Ellis and his RINO fighters a strategic question. Suppose I put up a white flag, set down my rifle (the one with the big yellow flower in the barrel), march across no man's land to Ellis's bunker in my Che t-shirt (oh, wait, that shirt belongs to the RINO candidate who is still fleecing Bob's Tea Party friends nationwide), and ask to parley. Suppose I tell Bob that my Leftist compatriots and I agree that RINOs like South Dakota's entire Congressional delegation are a threat to our nation. We won't say "greatest" threat, but we will say "greater" threat than Bob Ellis and Gordon Howie and their Christian jihadi tendencies (because we know that Ellis and Howie will never win... but shhh! pipe down, we're parleying here!).

We thus propose a cease fire and a temporary alliance. We Leftists will focus our fire on Rounds, Thune, and Noem. We ask that Ellis and his friends back off on their attacks on us as godless, un-American traitors and instead support and promote our critiques of RINO policies in Pierre and Washington. We ask Ellis et al. convince their preferred legislators in Pierre (folks like Rep. Lance Russell, Rep. Mike Verchio, Senator Phil Jensen, Senator Betty Olson) to declare cease fire on the culture war and instead caucus with Democrats in Pierre to block the portions of the RINO agenda that we both find objectionable. We offer to support viable primary candidates whom they can put up to challenge Noem and Thune in 2016. And if their primary candidates cannot prevail, they promise to support our Democratic challengers for House and Senate.

Bob, we're both fighting what you call "the greatest and most pressing threat to the American republic." I'm willing to help. Will you take that help?


For some time I have wondered why South Dakota's Republican leadership has consistently favored big ag over small ag, going to great (possibly criminal) lengths to recruit investors for megadairies and meat processing plants and subsidizing big cheese factories while imposing greater regulatory burdens on small dairy producers and shutting down raw milk producers on bogus inspections. Why would Republican leaders not pay at least as much attention to small farms?

Then I read gubernatorial chief of staff Tony Venhuizen's contribution to Seth Tupper's thoughtful Sunday report on the demise of the South Dakota Democratic Party, and policy and politics click:

One of the themes he noticed during his research was the tendency of Democrats to make gains in gubernatorial politics during periods of “agrarian discontent.”

That’s no longer the case, Venhuizen said, because farm numbers have declined so far that even a massive shift of farmers to the Democratic Party could no longer swing an election.

The numbers support the theory. There were more than 80,000 farms in South Dakota during the 1930s, but a steady drop has reduced that number to about 32,000 today. That’s a 60 percent decline, even as the state’s population has grown by 20 percent during the same period [Seth Tupper, "The Seeds of Democratic Decline: Theories Attempt to Explain Party's Nov. 4 Drubbing," Rapid City Journal, 2014.12.21].

Despite the state's antipathy and a collapse in dairy numbers, South Dakota added nearly 1,500 small farms from 2007 to 2012. But that's not nearly enough to restore the leverage McGovern Democrats used to have to play to agrarian discontent. Republican leaders can focus their ag policy on big players, scratching their backs with EB-5 money, tax breaks, and other corporate welfare. Those big players scratch right back at election time with votes and campaign contributions.

I know, I know, I shouldn't peddle conspiracy theories. A political party would never let its selfish political interests sway its policies. South Dakota Republicans would never drive small independent farmers out of business just because small independent farmers helped McGovern rebuild the South Dakota Democratic Party. South Dakota Republicans would never ignore the input of teachers and make bad education policy that drives teachers away from the state just because teachers tend to vote Democratic. South Dakota Republicans would never squeeze out unions with "right-to-work" laws just because labor is an important Democratic power base. South Dakota Republicans would never make it harder for Indians to vote just because Indians pick D over R 90% of the time.

But Venhuizen's observation makes on thing clear: top Republicans are perfectly aware that fewer farmers, as well as a higher proportion of the remaining ag player beholden to Republican state largesse, aligns perfectly with South Dakota Republican political fortunes.

At least he won't go hungry... (Lee Schoenbeck and friends, from Schoenbeck Twitter feed, 2014.11.14)

At least he won't go hungry... (Lee Schoenbeck and friends, from Schoenbeck Twitter feed, 2014.11.14)

Not only did the 2014 election deprive us the pleasure of testing Lee Schoenbeck's commitment to disenfranchising District 3 and RV voters, but the legislative caucus has deprived us the pleasure of Lee Schoenbeck's leadership. Despite months of machinating by Watertown's imminently Rotunda-revisiting Representative-Elect, GOP House members and members-elect picked Rep. Steve Westra of Sioux Falls as their assistant majority leader.

Rep.-Elect Schoenbeck has graced these blog pages for years with numerous intelligent, kind, and/or provocative comments. Rep. Westra has yet to contribute any thoughts to our rollicking civic discussion. One can only conclude that Schoenbeck possesses an intellect far superior to Westra's and that the SDGOP has passed up an opportunity to boost its collective IQ and Blog-Q.

We can only hope Schoenbeck will emerge smiling from this defeat and use the extra time left in his hands by his colleagues to post more blog comments... and maybe call some more Republicans S.O.B.'s who have it coming.


Senator Ted Cruz tells us that net neutrality would slow down the Internet like the Affordable Care Act is slowing down health care. (Two responses to Cruz's absurdity: net neutrality is not the ACA, and one survey finds appointment wait times for five health care specialties in 15 markets decreased from 20.4 days in 2009 to 18.5 days in 2013.) Senator John Thune argues the EPA is overreaching with proposed water rules that would regulate fewer bodies of water than Reagan-era rules did. Senator-Elect Mike Rounds and his friends spew ever varying yet equally bogus estimates of the investment capital and jobs produced by South Dakota's EB-5 program. Pat Powers bleats that "liberal" politics caused the Democrats' defeat last week, when a majority of South Dakotans embraced liberal politics by raising the minimum wage.

Republicans have profoundly disconnected themselves from simple truth. In a Tweet-essay (my stars, what is 21st-century language becoming?) Grist writer David Roberts calls this attitude "postmodern conservatism." America's conservatives have "systematically and progressively destroyed the very notion of a nonpartisan arbiter of information." Conservatives, says Roberts, have accepted a notion that liberals cannot: there are no facts, just competing arguments, and every dispute not a search for truth but a "contest of power" in which the "loudest, best funded, most persistent voices win."

More than twenty years ago, when I was waging rhetorical war against my multiculturalism-peddling Human Relations professors at SDSU, I thought it was liberals and Democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton who would destroy America with their sinister value relativism.

I was wrong. It is Republicans who are shedding their commitment to any absolutes other than absolute power. It is Republicans who are undermining America's moral compass. It is Republicans whom we must defeat to preserve the Republic.


In small potatoes, Pat Powers farmer-blows his nose on my analysis of the real reasons South Dakota Democrats lost this week and summarizes the Republican effort to brand Democrats in one telling sentence:

I had to chuckle this noon hour as Cory Heidelberger lifted his head from crying in his GMO free corn flakes to offer a sniveling retort to the reality of election 2014, known by Democrats as “Ragnarok” [Pat Powers, "Retort to My Analysis of the Races Forgets a Couple of Things," Dakota War College, 2014.11.07].

GMO-free corn flakes. The proper, immediate, and sufficient response to any comment about my diet is what's it to ya?

I'm going to run down this rabbit hole, because I think Pat makes an important point here about how South Dakota Republicans operate. For the record:

  1. Pat Powers has never had breakfast with me.
  2. I have not eaten corn flakes for months.
  3. Both of the cereals I ate yesterday came from Wal-mart.
  4. I ate a big cheeseburger and onion rings for supper yesterday.
  5. I have never checked any of my breakfasts, lunches, or suppers for GMO content.
  6. Whether one bothers to check one's food for GMOs is as much someone else's business as your choice of boxers, briefs, or commando.
  7. Whether one eschews GMOs tells us nothing about a person's ability to intelligently analyze and comment on South Dakota politics.

Without any evidence or basis in knowledge or fact, Republican Pat is ascribing to Democrat me a food-protest elitism that he and his ilk like to think of as effete and risible. Pat doesn't want you to look at what I'm actually saying about the issue at hand. He wants to hang a fabricated label on me, make it mean what he wants, and use that double falsehood to dismiss my arguments without reading them.

I hear an echo here of how certain opponents attack President Barack Obama by calling him a Muslim. Never mind that public facts demonstrate that President Obama is at least as Christian as anyone in South Dakota. Never mind that there's nothing inherently wrong with being Muslim. People who hate the President grab a label—Muslim—invest that label with a negative connotation, and then hang it on the President to dismiss him, contrary to fact, without looking at what the President really says and does religiously, not to mention politically.

Now zoom out to how South Dakota Republicans use Obama and liberal against South Dakota Democrats. Republicans, even those of often good conscience, hung the Obama label on Democrats (even Dems running for Legislature, where President Obama's policies are far less relevant) and told South Dakotans, "Don't vote for Obama!" GOP vilification of the President was so damning that Democrats themselves ran away from a President with a steady job restoration record and a big basket of other great policy achievements.

Likewise liberal. I can't even tell (and I'll bet most South Dakotans can't either) what liberal means in the contemporary political vernacular. Is it handing out government money? Is it increasing government control? Is it running a budget deficit? Is it simply passing new laws instead of sticking with the status quo? But the South Dakota Republicans who do all of those things plow forth unabashed, shouting Liberal! at South Dakota Democrats, who run for their lives from a word turned meaning-free insult.

Never mind what I eat. I'm a liberal. I believe in maximizing liberty for every citizen. I believe in using the power we have as a community to solve problems.

And I believe in using words to educate and enlighten citizens, not to insult others and avoid unpleasant truths.


Dakota War College lurches toward the weekend seeing two of its favorite Republican legislators losing Republican endorsements to their Democratic counterparts. Three high-profile former Republican legislators are endorsing District 10 Senate Democratic candidate Michael Schultz over DWC pin-up Rep. Jenna Haggar. Schultz's résumé is far deeper than Haggar's, including his time as mayor of Brandon. And the three Republicans picking his experience over Haggar's conservative cheerleader act are no lightweights: they are former Sioux Falls mayor Dave Munson, former U.S. Marshall and South Dakota Highway Patrol chief Gene Abdallah, and former teacher and principal Jan Nicolay. Munson, Nicolay, and Abdallah each represented Haggar's district in Pierre, and they say Schultz represents the "Strong—Stable—Effective" choice for District 10 today.

I reported last night that District 16 Senate Democratic candidate Ann Tornberg is posting endorsements from registered Republicans and high-profile Dakota Dunes neighbors of GOP Senator Dan Lederman. And hey, this morning, here come two more!

Friebergs for Tornberg 20141031

Wow—add to those endorsements to West River Republican Pat Trask's repudiation of Mike Rounds this week, and could we be seeing a trend of Republicans trading the Powers/Wadhams-style politics for smart, qualified candidates and good government?


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