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Monday, October 13, 2008

Russ Olson, Totally 80s: Recites Reagan Rhetoric, Forgets Political Reality

"New Ideas, Old Ideals, Proven Results," reads the CreditSoup-approved slogan on Russell Olson's latest print ad. Well, one out of three ain't bad...

The Olson for South Dakota Senate campaign buys a third of a page in Friday's Madison Daily Leader. They use that third of a page quite effectively... for wrapping baloney.

I can quibble on a couple small points. The ad kicks off the familiar Olson series of testimonials with Flandreau public works superintendent Don Johnston. Nothing wrong with citing Don, although maybe a media buy in Madison would be more effective if it used a Madison resident.

The ad also features Olson saying, "Throughout this campaign, you have heard the reasons why I would like to continue serving...." Actually, if you've been reading MDL the past couple months, all you've really heard Olson say is, "Go Bulldogs!" (or Flyers, Raiders...) in his series of touching homecoming ads, as if the job of a state representative hoping to become state senator is to play cheerleader.

But that's media stuff. Let's talk policy. Says Olson [emphasis mine]:

With the rising price of gasoline, groceries and energy, South Dakotans are finding it more difficult to pay their basic cost of living expenses. Our schools, main-street businesses and industries are powered by our local electric systems and I will continue to protect the rights of local decision making, ensuring your family will continue to receive the lowest cost power available.

And says Johnston:

Russell has worked hard to protect and enhance the Public Power Systems that provide municipal electricity to the citizens of Flandreau, Colman, Madison, and Howard.

During this time of economic uncertainty, we need stable, reliable and efficient power.

As a citizen of Flandreau, I know Russell understands the importance of locally-controlled Public Power and will continue to work hard in Pierre to make sure your community continues to manage its power system without negative outside influence.

Local control, negative outside influence—that's GOP code for deregulation, or at least anti-regulation. It's another reformulation of the same old passive legislative philsophy Olson espoused when he got in the House two years ago: "I didn't seek this position to make laws. Quite honestly, I feel that we have enough laws on the books the way it is."

I guess Olson considers himself and his fellow legislators a "negative outside influence." Of course, if that negative outside influence is being aimed at your uterus, then he's all for putting state action over local control (or individual choice—see 2007's abortion ban and 2008's sonogram bill, both of which Olson voted for).

Has Olson noticed that it's not the 1980s any more? That his own Governor only cites local control when he's trying to avoid paying for something? That his own President has embraced the influence of government as the only tool left in the box to correct a free market that has derailed itself with unregulated greed and gambling?

The old ideals our GOP District 8 Senate candidate and his pal are repeating ring hollow in the face of 21st-century reality. They also belie a lack of new ideas or proven results (the other stuff that slogan was promising). What's new about promising to go to Pierre just to block legislation that might affect the product your employer sells? Where do either Olson or Johnston prove that local control—also known as legislative inaction—will help communities avoid the 23% electric rate hike the WAPA is sending us for Christmas (o.k., New Year's)?

Maybe we could translate the ad this way: "Russell hasn't done anything in Pierre. Local officials do the real work. But Russell should get credit for it." That sounds like saying you should thank all the bystanders who watch the lifeguard save a drowning man because the bystanders didn't stand in the lifeguard's way.

Note to candidates: during this time of economic certainty, we are electing lifeguards, not bystanders.

If Olson wants to be a bystander, that's fine: we can arrange that. Let Olson be a bystander for twelve months a year; vote for the other guy to actually go to Pierre and do something.


  1. I ask many friends and co workers who plan on voting for Russ, why? I get a blank stare. What has he done in is two years, I ask? Another blank stare. What does he stand for? And yes, another blank stare.

    We do not need the status quo in Pierre. We need someone who will actually THINK and not be a puppet for our local elites.

    On the same note, I spoke to a friend the other day who told me she never votes. According to her, she's voting this year (for the other guy) just because she is sick and tired of Russ' mug plastered all over the countryside.

    Every time I drive by one of those signs I sing "I Feel Pretty" from Westside Story in my head.

  2. I don't live/vote in that district, but I drive through it each day on my way work, and I completely agree that his signs are ridiculous.

  3. Why is it that when someone from this area goes out and works their tush off putting up signs, going door-to-door and promoting hard with local advertising, they get condemned for being "pretty" instead of being complimented on their efforts and enthusiasm?

    Russell Olson's wife even stopped at our home the other evening during the rain asking for support for her husband. Russell has bucked his party in his support of local education funding, and when you're Rounds' former employee, that takes courage.

    Readers have to also realize that Cory is a very active campaign volunteer for Olson's opponent, Scott Parsley, helps with Parsley's ads, goes door to door for Parsley, etc. You're not going to get an unbiased posting from Cory on this particular race.

  4. No secret there, Anon: I've knocked on doors and put up signs for Scott for the same reason that I wrote this post: I believe Scott's the better choice for the job.

    Now, back to the point: do you have any disagreement with the content of the post itself? Sure, I'm biased... but I'm also right. :-)

  5. Anon 11:03, it's nice that you think Russ "bucked" his party when it came to education funding, but in the meantime he co-sponsored a bill to restrict school districts from putting money into pension funds for their employees. Luckily it didn't pass.

  6. If Mr. Olson put as much time and energy in gettins some of his own legislation passed in Pierre as he spends on getting elected wow. He would have my support but I also get blank stares from people when I ask them if they are going to vote for him. He is a hell of nice guy but I would like to have seen a little more action out him other then trying to get elected.

  7. Amazing how someone promoting themselves for public office is now having people sick of and tired of plastering their "mugs" all over the countryside, its poltics, get over it. Obviously for any landowner to allow this, must be supporting Russell and his values. I have known Don Johnston for over 30 years and Russell and his family as well, they stand for what they believe and I believe what they say. If you would like to discuss values and integrity lets talk ....I doubt that Cory would do that considering Scott Parsley's treasurer. Now I have the blank stare. Cory you have an opinion as well do many others, but you are wrong on this one.

  8. (Now we're really off topic.)

    What blank stare, Anon?

    Here's a perfect case of where you prove your lack of courage by making such a snide comment without putting your name to it. Are you saying Scott Parsley lacks values and integrity? Are you questioning his dedication to his community, his church, and/or his family? If you are, if you really believe that and aren't just playing GOP-Rove-style games, then say so, publicly, and put your name to it.

    My post above is all about policy positions and job performance. That's all I'm interested in. Do you really want to have a character debate about the candidates? Are you absolutely sure you want to go there, Anon? I really think you better check with GOP campaign central before you start throwing mud.

  9. By the way, Anon, back on topic: nice try at distraction, but did you show that anything I said in the original post was wrong?

  10. And for that matter, what's your beef with Chuck Sutton?

  11. I think anon 9:30PM is confusing Chuck Sutton, the respected land auctioneer, with Dan Sutton, the soon-to-be former State Senator.


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