Joe Lowe treated Democratic Forum members yesterday to the kind of stemwinder South Dakota Democrats need. In a quick lunchtime speech, Lowe laid out the case every Democrat should make for regime change in South Dakota. He vowed to end the "culture of corruption" evident in Governor Dennis Daugaard's failed Manpower initiative, the pay-to-play smell of campaign donors getting Future Fund grants, and the loss of $4.3 million in taxpayer dollars in the EB-5/Northern Beef packers debacle. Lowe said he would invest in in-state human capital and promote more public-private partnerships to put university research to work in South Dakota economic development.
Lowe also told two apt anecdotes. First, he said a young woman came into his gallery this month and fell to talking about her career plans. She's going to university in Minnesota and plans to become a teacher. Joe asked her if she planned to come back and teach in South Dakota. She said no way. She said her friends who are teaching in South Dakota all have to work second jobs to pay the bills. She wants to be able to pay off her student loans doing the job she's trained for and loves. She can't do that, she says, in South Dakota. (This sounds too familiar.)
Lowe then told of another customer, an East River businessman, who dropped by the gallery looking for some decoration for his walls. Actually, he's planning to have two sets of walls: he just built a new house East River, and he was in Rapid shopping for land to build his family a nice Black Hills vacation home.
Joe said to the man that business must be pretty good, and the man said you bet. The man then asked Joe, businessman to businessman, what he wanted to do for South Dakota's business climate. Joe said we need to pay higher wages. His customer balked, saying he couldn't afford higher wages.
New house East River, shopping for expensive Black Hills property for a second home, and he can't afford to pay his workers more.
Lowe segued neatly to Pope Francis:
The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefiting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor [Pope Francis, quoted in John Stoehr, "How Pope Francis Challenges the Right (and Left)," The American Conservative, 2014.01.16].
Politics, concluded Lowe, is about people. It's about the 48,000 people with no health insurance because of Governor Daugaard's refusal to expand Medicaid. It's about 36,000 South Dakota kids going to bed not sure if they'll have breakfast in the morning. It's about South Dakota women making 82 cents for each dollar men make. It's about South Dakota kids leaving the state to pay their debts.
For the current regime, said Lowe, politics is not about those people; it's about winning the next election. Lowe wants to win this election, but he wants to win it because he wants to continue protecting the people of South Dakota and making their lives better.
Democrats, pay attention. Lowe's speech to the Democratic Forum shows that if you nominate Lowe for Governor, you will have a fighter who can weave solid policy critiques and strong stories into a powerful candidacy.