My first face-to-face encounter with Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers, like that with a certain illegitimate U.S. Senate candidate, did not go well.
When I walked into the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum Friday, Myers was there, talking with Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Now if you're a blogger and you see two candidates tête à tête, you go there. I walk up, and Myers glances my way and recognizes me. I extend my hand, and he takes it and quite literally jerks me toward him. With what I can fairly describe as a snarl, Myers gruffly upbraided me for calling him crazy and saying he was winded when he finished his pushups. (For the record, a quick search of the blog for "Myers" and "crazy" brings up just one post, in which I do not directly call Myers "crazy" and note that a large majority of our State House supports industrial hemp just like Myers.)
I understand that candidate Myers could be as frustrated with me as with the rest of the press for focusing on the theatrics and distractions surrounding his campaign rather than the substance of the issues he wants to discuss. But such physical aggression on the campaign trail toward any reporter or voter seems... uncivil? unwise? newsworthy in a bad way?
I wouldn't criticize a person for walking away from such a greeting and choosing not to risk interacting with such a person again. But as a blogger and as a South Dakota Democrat, I'm a glutton for punishment. I invited Myers to sit down with me for coffee after Forum. We got together a couple hours later, and even though I was half an hour late, Myers now greeted me with perfect, smiling civility. We sat down for an hour and talked about his biography and his intentions as a gubernatorial candidate.
Myers summarized his bio for me: Navy at 17, work on the sheep/hog kill floor at Morrell's, SDSU journalism grad, UPI newsman and photographer for that Sioux Falls paper, USD law school prof (Myers says he had current USD president Jim Abbott as a student), and hospital exec.
Myers said he's really good at not taking advice. Against the advice of various politicos he sees at coffee in Sioux Falls, he opens his policy talk with his support for industrial hemp and medical marijuana. Industrial hemp, quite simply, is economic development, a billion-dollar industry just waiting for South Dakota to capitalize on it. Medical marijuana, says Myers, is consumer choice: why not allow a cancer patient facing body-destroying chemotherapy another option?
Myers's support for medical marijuana connects with his concern that money has taken over medicine. Myers sees profit-oriented hospitals overtreating patients, especially in the last few months of life. Myers says iatrogenesis, the negative effects of medical interventions, is the third leading cause of death in the United States (a claim one should make carefully). Myers wants to empower patients with alternatives like medical marijuana and with information like published, accessible prices for all medical procedures.
Myers also supports establishing a statewide health insurance cooperative, which he says will lower medical care prices. The term CO-OP here is actually an acronym for Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan, a program created by the Affordable Care Act and supported with federal loans. 400,000 Americans have enrolled in health CO-OPs so far, and states with CO-OPs appear to have lower health insurance premiums. South Dakota has not created a health CO-OP.
Myers does diverge from the Affordable Care Act on Medicaid expansion. He says South Dakota should take that money, but he would seek a waiver that would allow the re-appropriation of some of that money to long-term care.
Myers sees big money controlling South Dakota government as well. He reviles Bill Janklow's selling the state out to big banks. Saying the money-changers are in the temple of state government, Myers says he wants to revisit the usury laws that we repealed in the 1980s to entice Citibank to our state.
Finally, Myers is angling for the youth vote on student debt and higher education. As a professor, he saw the problem of students going into debt for degrees that wouldn't pay off. Myers suggests that South Dakota needs fewer law-degree seekers and more welders and other vo-tech grads. He also wants a greater connection between university classrooms and the real world. He says he sent us students out on research trips to local businesses all the time; he wants to appoint Regents who will push for more such market-oriented education practices.
Industrial hemp, health care reform, usury, and higher education are all important policy issues South Dakotans should discuss. When Myers can get past his opening demonstrations of physical prowess and aggression, he can bring up some discussion-worthy policy points.
"South Dakota has not created a health CO-OP."
Why would we? What have we done for healthcare of our citizens? It is almost like SD has a motto, stay healthy or die.
That first greeting you got was vintage Mike Myers. But he does get winded with pushups these days.
Vintage: so he always uses physical intimidation as a tactic? Playing alpha male?
Don't read too much into it, Cory. He let you know what he thought of your journalism. Then he moved on. You should too. He was sizing you up.
One thing I have liked about Myers, which has nothing to do with politics, is for several years he had a toll free number that that seniors could call and receive free legal advice. I did use it a few times and he went so far as to write a couple letters for me.
Does Myers shake a woman's hand with the same "alpha male strength that he does with men.
Back to the basic Myers, learn how to do the political handshake and keep it consistent.
He projected that gruff persona in his classes - if one wanted to assume that was his projection - as did a few youngsters. He's a big, strong guy - not big like the stay-puff guy but like Arnold. His apparent gruffness is part generational no-nonsense, been around the blocks and earned the rights to opinions and hunches while not foreclosing others. Glad you sat down with him. Myers would make a great governor or lieutenant - it would be outstanding if Lowe put Myers on
the ticket - or vice versa.
Using a gimmick in a campaign, push ups, is risky business.
You won't be remembered for the content of your campaign, you'll be remembered for the gimmick.
Mr. C is right. That guy that does pushups will go down in history right alongside that guy who was running for office using the gimmick of beating old people with a belt.
grudz old buddy,
What did I miss with the "using the gimmick of beating old people with a belt"?
Roger, I believe Grudz is trying to provoke readers with a comparison to Ron Volesky.
Cory, maybe Myers jerked you with the handshake to get your attention. Ever hear the phrase: "Crazy like a fox?" The handshake, although unsettling to you, worked. It got your attention and an interview ;).
...And you...as unsettling as it might be, I kind of like the quirkiness. Especially in an era of OVER-POLISHED candidates who are blah, milk toast, and frankly..make politics boring these days. We need the quirkiness that use to exist in politics years ago that got my attention and that of many other voters.
Cory and grudz,
Sorry for not picking up on that reference to Ron Volesky, I new that name had some significance, but did not link it to Tara. There are times my memory doesn't work as well as I wish it would.
The handshake isn't getting the attention that the push ups are.
It is true that Myers got Cory's attention, but not in a positive way.
Positive or not...it still worked. It's not always about being positive. Real human beings are NOT happy, happy, joy, joy 24/7. People are sick of 24/7 phony sunshine just as much as those who are cynical all the time. There's a balance and sometimes you have to be negative to make the positive that much better. You don't find yourself through always being peachy-keen and that goes for campaigns, too.
I watched the whole video and I found Myers to be rambling and unfocused. That had nothing to do with Cory's story. It had everything to do with Myers.
Frankly, I find the tough guy routine completely off-putting. To me, that's all about show and doesn't mean squat. To me bullies are repulsive. Myers needs to know that his routine of push ups and physical aggression makes him the last choice for many, many voters.
I'd say to Myers, don't try to intimidate and impress us with your hyper-masculinity. Just talk to us, clearly and concisely, about how you'd respond to issues of personal freedom for all SDakotans, including women, EB-5, government transparency, health care, minimum wage, economic development, etc. Tell us what values are important to you. Where do you draw the line?
G, as you can tell from my blog posts, I have no problem with someone who doesn't project happy-happy-joy-joy all the time. There is most definitely a place for negative commentary and even righteous anger. But we're not talking about a campaign speech or advertisement. We're talking about a one-on-one interaction with a blogger. Consider my Saturday experience: at the Lawrence County Lincoln Day dinner, I offered a civil handshake and polite conversation to every Republican I met (and not just because I was outnumbered!). Like Deb, I find physical aggression repulsive and to be employed only in extreme situations where the other party is not open to any civil response.
To put it in an extreme context, shooting a gun in the air would have gotten my attention, but would it have been a wise action?
There probably isn't a blogger here that is naive enough to believe in the happy, happy-joy,joy bit is effective for any politician. Mike Rounds comes to mind.
Myers quirkiness is over the top and unnecessary. With his push ups and handshakes he has lost his messaging or is covering it up with this nonsense.
I watched that painfully long press conference and the media that covered it headlined his "quirkiness" of push ups rather than the content of any of his political positions.
He squandered a real opportunity to get his message out to the voters and came across as unprofessional.
G-Man, if that is the sort of candidate you want, you vote for him.
Don't vote for so and so because he/she is a so and so. Instead,vote for me because I am not him/her so and so. This,my friends,is what electioneering has come to.
I had Mike Myers as a professor in law school. Cory, I think you observed exactly what he is in your interactions with him, an ultra alpha male "tough guy" - but one who has a lot to say. I found him extraordinarily intimidating in the classroom, but that doesn't mean he's a doofus either. I think he knows more about healthcare than 98% of the people in Pierre, and we need someone like that right now. Although the incessant gabbing about chelation therapy in my Health Law class got a bit old...
I appreciate the perspective we're getting from John and Jen, folks who experienced the Myers classroom. We have an interesting tension here between good ideas and distracting antics. The antics don't mean the ideas are wrong.
But now imagine those antics at work in door-to-door campaigning, or in a national governors' association meeting. Curious: how does Myers compare to Bill Janklow on interpersonal style?
Cory, very accurate and well-written article on Mike Myers. Thank you.
Roger, I never said that was the "kind of candidate" I wanted. I just think you are all blowing this totally out of proportion. Reality is that we all have to deal with aggression every day. Yes, it isn't pleasant, but, that's unfortunately life. It can actually toughen one's character when dealing with aggression. Just wishing aggression away or not in politics will never work. We all attempt to contain aggression, however, it's always going to be there because it's human nature. I think a more realistic approach would be to just accept that some people are going to be that way no matter what and no matter what you or I or Cory thinks about the subject. Believe me, I've went through the same challenges in more unsettling circumstances than this one and I've come to realize that trying to control the situation just escalates it. There are times when you must stand up to it, but, I just believe this was not the time because we are simply trying to get to know the candidates at this point and fruitless to be over critical. That's just my view from experience. Take it or leave it.
In the real world of politics, everything a candidate does or doesn't do becomes relevant, some may think it is not an issue, but to another it is a big issue.
There are consequences to a candidates behavior no matter how trite or petty it seems to you.
There is no happy la la land in politics, Myers aggressive handshake given to Cory left an impact on him. Certainly Cory will consider that aggression on election day and so will others that are offended by Myers actions.
Since I have not shaken hands with Myers, my impression of him on election day will be "the push up guy".
Roger, I think it's cool he can do all those push-ups at that age. Man, I hope God allows me to be in that tip top of shape if I make it to that age! LOL I better get going on busting some out this afternoon...
South Dakota voters are already asking, "are you going to vote for the push up guy?"
Roger, I'm now over in the Beaver State. My concern is who will I vote for governor here? I think it's time for Kitz to go. That's Governor Kitzhaber (nearing the end of his 3rd non-consecutive term). I'm tired of these "lifers" that stay in term after term after term, like Janklow. I may end up voting for Republican Dennis Richardson and I haven't voted for a Republican in almost a decade. But, Kitz ain't going and the Democrats are fielding anyone else. However I vote, it will be a SPLIT or MIX ticket this year.
Sen. Jeff Merkley is also up for reelection. Hmmmm....
Comments are closed.