In a toothless column whose only apparent purposes are to (1) fill a slow news weekend with useless chatter, (2) maintain access, and (3) get a last squeeze or two from all those folks Googling "South Dakota" and "jerk", Jonathan Ellis pats South Dakotans on the back for not electing arrogant jerks to Congress.
Ellis wraps his non-headline around how rarely South Dakota's congressional staffers bad-mouth their bosses:
Staffers of South Dakota’s current and former congressional members don’t tell those kinds of stories. Sure, their bosses might be demanding. That is, after all, how you get elected to Congress: Setting and then achieving goals and demanding success. Politics can be tense, and maybe tempers can flare. But at the end of the day, South Dakota’s congressional members have gotten high ratings from their staffers [Jonathan Ellis, "S.D. Doesn't Send Jerks to Congress," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.12.27].
Yeah, Congress stinks, but not my Congresspeople! That fantasy is how we re-elect 96% of incumbents.
Ellis's claim is as valid as saying that since GOAC didn't say much bad about Joop Bollen or Mike Rounds, South Dakota's EB-5 program must not have had any arrogant jerks other than Richard Benda doing monkey business. It could be that we don't hear "horror stories" about our Congressional delegation because our Midwestern-German-Norwegian-Lutheran reticence keeps staffers from blabbing about their bosses more than their New York and California counterparts (though Ellis gives us no out-state examples; he just asserts that monsters abound elsewhere and tucks us into our safe little beds of self-satisfaction). It could well be that former South Dakota Congressional staffers still have bread to butter and speaking ill within the small, close-knit South Dakota political network would bring out something other than butter knives. It could be that reporters embedded in that same network can't afford to go digging for, much less publish, dirt on our two Senators or our sole Representative.
But hey fine great—take Ellis at his word. Johnson, Thune, Noem, Daschle, Herseth Sandlin—all nice people, and we're all darned nice for electing them. Ellis even mentions Pressler, whose fond former staffers launched perhaps the sweetest ad of South Dakota's 2014 Senate campaign.
Wait a minute: speaking of Rounds, where is he? Ellis makes no mention of the newest member of South Dakota's "Not a Jerk" Club.
Well, when you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. Maybe Ellis is just embodying one more example of what wonderful people we are. Or maybe it's just passive aggression.