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Thursday, November 04, 2010



A very accurate appraisal of the situation. If I were a Democrat, my main frustration with Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be that, due to Senator Johnson's health, she WAS the effective "top of the ticket" / head of the party for the state and during her time in office it appears to me that she used the state party for her needs but made little effort to strengthen it as a statewide organization.

Cliff Hadley

Good analysis. Gotta admit, though, there is a qualitative difference in states in which the GOP is dominant, in that they go broke more slowly than Democrat-run states. The temptation to spend, spend, spend worms its way into the habits and desires of every politician of both parties, and winds up coloring every move. Also, give South Dakotans credit for recognizing that the Democrats offer zilch in ideas. Dems have a single solution to every issue, which goes something like this: "Government knows best, and it takes wheelbarrows of money to spread our fair and rational programs, so fork up, idiots!" Thank you, no.

George Mason

The single most important difference between South Dakota and other states (i.e. Calif.) is a part time legislature. As a wise man once said, "no mans bank account is safe when the legislature is in session." When you compare that with states that have full time legislatures the differences are stark. Full time legislators are as easily corrupted as our full time congress people. "How does this affect my re-election" becomes the major consideration to every action. As a result they have no compunction about spending the peoples money in attempts to secure their position of power. Of course the U.S. Senate and Congress were supposed to be part-time also. There is no better argument for term limits than what we have witnessed the last 6 years.

Wayne Fiebick

I would like to reflect on Mr. Mason's last sentence. I graduated from SDSU in 81, but have lived in California since then. I've seen a lot of politics that most other states don't. One of them is term limits, which when it was on the ballot several years ago I supported. Now California is seeing the results of that, which is a disfunctional legislature which is completely oblivious to the voters. The ability to vote out a career polititian is the only hold the voters have over them. When you remove that, the polititians no longer care what the voters think of the job they are doing. I believe California is circling the drain, and will be insolvent in the next year or two, thanks in part to term limits.


Cliff, you overgeneralize. SHS was the one with an ag policy; Noem enunciated no such policy on her website. SHS and Heidepriem engaged in more policy-specific discussion than their opponents, yet their opponents won. I will be charitable and suggest that Democrats have at least as many ideas as Republicans.

Ken, your analysis is solid. The existential problem you identify bothers me greatly. We don't offer much to young McGovern-Wellstone Dems. They are the young people who could bring some idealism and passion to the party. The state party tells them to temper their views, play the Blue Dog, and soft-pedal the Democrat brand. The pragmatists swear that if you run like a flaming liberal, you and the party will get hammered... but could we get hammered any harder than we did this year trying to play "Independent Democrat"? My neighbor Gerry Lange has been a known, card-carrying liberal on most issues for decades, and he managed to win at the polls more often than he lost.

I agree that running as a hard left opposition party (Weiland Wildcats?) would still lose us a majority of elections among South Dakota's conservative electorate. But finding some homegrown McGoverns and Wellstones (maybe some more Angie Buhls?) and letting them run as liberals would also (a) keep those young idealists in the state longer to organize, fundraise, and build the party, (b) start more conversations presenting more significant alternatives to conservative policies and philosophies, and (c) increase their chances of running competitive Democratic campaigns over time. That's all long ball -- it doesn't happen magically in 2012 -- but changing organizations and an entire state culture takes time, right?


If the Democrat party hopes to build on "young idealists" such as Angie Buhl, then it is beyond hope. Ms. Buhl is a polarizing activist who is interested in pushing a very narrow far-left agenda and not in being part of the hard work of governing. South Dakota is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.

George Mason

Mr. Fiebeck; Welcome aboard. I would like to emphasize that my main point was part time legislatures. I still believe term limits are a good idea, but I think you are also making the point, if indirectly, that it is always about who you elect. California's situation is a direct result of an ever expanding government, with ever increasing numbers on the payroll, with ever increasing benefits. Unless and until you get that under control, the state will continue accelerating towards bankruptcy. Much like the path on which Obama and company have set the federal government.

Donald Pay

Lots to comment on here.

I agree with KB. Two nearly equally matched parties, or even three such parties, makes a big difference. Some of the best legislation that ever came out of the South Dakota Legislature happened when both parties had nearly equal numbers.

However, that's not always the case, and a lot depends on state specifics. Wisconsin has a very competitve political system, but it has a very strong Governor and a weak Legislature. You can have balance in the Legislative Branch, but the governor can simply line veto legislation and chance the meaning.

South Dakota has the initiative and referendum, which can be an effective corrective to one party dominance.

The SD Democratic Party has been dysfunctional for quite a while. The leadership is so terrified of standing on principal, so as not to hurt the election chances of top of the ticket candidates, that it can't attract anyone interested in working at the grassroots level. When careerism overtakes principle, you might as well be the Republicans.

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