Last updated on 2012.11.20
The South Dakota Republican Party and Rep. Kristi Noem are receiving some national attention. Alas, it's national attention that makes them and, if we're not careful at the voting booth, South Dakota look stupid. Here's a sampling of the national press the SDGOP and Team Noem are receiving for their absurd anti-intellectual and anti-corndog attack ad against Matt Varilek:
International correspondent Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor says the ad makes him laugh and cry... and is so absurd he had to call the SDGOP office to verify its authenticity:
...there is a certain sneering contempt for international experience and high levels of education in corners of America that this campaign ad seems to typify. Environmental issues? One can argue about whether economic interests should be sacrificed for environmental ones, but efforts to create a market in carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions is, well, a market-oriented approach.
When did education and international experience become black marks for legislators? [Dan Murphy, "In US Politics, Foreign Things Are Very Suspicious..." Christian Science Monitor: Back Channels, October 25, 2012].
Glenn Church responds sardonically:
If you listen to the ad, it sounds as if Varilek never set foot in South Dakota until he was finished traveling the world getting a higher education, working for the UN and pushing cap and trade proposals. He's actually a fourth generation South Dakotan. But that's nothing. The real attack comes with news of Varilek' corn dog parties. No, really. He held a party with 1,000 corn dogs. There was no mention that he provided any mustard though. That should settle it. Without a doubt this man is not qualified to serve in Congress [Glenn Church, "Corn Dog Parties Become Issue in Race for South Dakota's House Seat," Foolocracy, October 25, 2012].
In the end, the ad leaves us asking: Is this satire? It seems more like an SNL short than a serious campaign for Congress. Rather than paint a world in which Varilek is a dangerous radical and Noem is a moral and upstanding South Dakotan, it unwittingly portrays Varilek as educated and motivated and Noem as a bumpkin who never left her home state [Sarah Cobarrubias, "Today in Laughable Campaign Ads: Congressional Candidate Portrayed as 'Corn-Dogging' Radical," In These Times, October 26, 2012].
Jess Zimmerman at Grist is appalled that voters might fall for such seething blinderism:
Seriously, you have to watch this ad to believe the depth of anti-intellectualism and anti-environmentalism at work here. The voiceover literally just reads off Varilek's impressive resume — got two postgraduate degrees, studied at Cambridge, spoke at a U.N. global warming summit — but in a tone of voice that suggests Varilek achieved all this while smearing his face with the blood of aborted puppies.
Meanwhile, Noem's achievements include receiving an award from the South Dakota Soybean Association, but at least she doesn't know anything about how soybeans work! I'm actually surprised the ad missed an opportunity to claim that while Noem did attend college, she only went because it was a requirement of her title as South Dakota Snow Queen. Surely, with a constituency that thinks attending U.N. summits and leaving the state occasionally are liabilities in a politician, that tidbit ought to make her a shoo-in [Jess Zimmerman, "GOP candidate: 'My Opponent Believes in Global Warming and Has Been to Other Countries, He Is Basically a Monster'," Grist, October 26, 2012].
I don't expect this ad to have much more impact on the Noem–Varilek race than Jeff Barth's stroke of viral video genius did on the outcome of the Democratic primary. But maybe this unforced error by Tim Rave, Tony Post, and Kristi Noem will inspire some contributions to Team Varilek and inspire some voters who believe education and experience matter to get to the polls and pick a Congressman who's qualified to do the job.