Facing a Republican Party committed to character assassination and a majority of voters who appear to tolerate it, the South Dakota Democratic Party has made the sensible tactical move of emphasizing initiative and referendum to win policy battles. Ballot issues are harder to personalize and thus harder to defeat by assassinating one candidate's character. Less distracted by personal attacks, voters can better see the good sense of the policy proposed.
That's why the SDDP's Initiated Measure 18 to raise the minimum wage may have a better chance of winning a majority vote than any Democratic candidate in the state. Raising the minimum wage has 61% support in South Dakota. IM18 has majority support in every age group and income group. It even wins 48% of South Dakota Republicans. The current $7.25 minimum has a third less purchasing power than the $1.60 minimum had in 1968. It will be hard for the Republicans to overcome that support that that glaring economic inequity by calling SDDP exec Zach Crago names.
In the policy-over-personal-attacks spirit of the initiative, I suppose I shouldn't try to support the minimum-wage increase by calling Governor Dennis Daugaard a hypocrite. But Republican blogger John Tsitrian connects the dots to reveal an inconsistency in our Governor's policy thinking on the minimum wage and the gasoline tax.
Recall that Governor Daugaard opposes the minimum wage increase:
Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, also responded negatively to the proposal.
"This issue should be based on economics, not politics," Daugaard said in a statement. "There needs to be an analysis of how many jobs would be lost" [David Montgomery, "Dems Planning Initiated Measure to Raise Minimum Wage," Political Smokeout, 2013.07.17].
Economics provide a pretty good basis for raising the minimum wage. Governor Daugaard so far seems unconvinced. But he sounds like an economist when justifying his just-about-face on raising the gasoline tax:
“When I ran for governor four years ago, I promised that I would not support tax increases, and I have kept that promise. I want to participate in a discussion about future transportation needs, however, without taking any options off the table, including proposals to restore the purchasing power of the gas tax,” he said [Bob Mercer, "Daugaard: Willing to Consider Increasing State Highway Taxes," Aberdeen American News, 2014.05.21].
Governor Daugaard wants to restore his purchasing power for building and fixing roads. So why, asks Tsitrian, doesn't our good and gracious Governor want to restore the purchasing power of minimum-wage workers?
My beef about all this isn't the gas tax, per se. I'm just dismayed by the notion that cost-of-living increases need to be considered when pencilling in the price of government services but are to be ignored when it comes considering raises in the minimum wage. If Daugaard believes that jacking up gas taxes doesn't amount to a tax increase, just a restoration of buying power, then shouldn't that same principle be applied to minimum wages? Applying the Governor's own reasoning, raising minimum wages isn't the same as increasing them, it's just a matter of restoring their buying power. Yet Daugaard has effectively ignored this logic and withheld his support for the cost-of-living increase (with its built-in adjustment for inflation) that will appear on November's ballot.
It all looks to me like Daugaard believes state government should consider getting a cost-of-living increase but working people shouldn't. I don't like this. It's illogical. It's inconsistent—and it comes across as institutionalized cognitive dissonance [John Tsitrian, "Sure, Governor Daugaard...," The Constant Commoner, 2014.07.09].
Institutionalized cognitive dissonance—that's still a gentler attack than any of the personal slime Dick Wadhams will throw on behalf of South Dakota Republicans against Democratic candidates. Truer, too.
But Democrats don't need to go there. We don't need to campaign against Dennis Daugaard (or for any particular Democrat, for that matter) to convince a majority of voters to do what they already think is right: raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation so that even the lowest-paid workers can get a fair shake.