I'm with Mr. Price... almost.
With her announcement that she will vote against the House health care reform bill, South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is following the political strategy that appears to have guided her throughout the current session: vote against major Democratic priorities in order to defuse Republican opposition here at home. SHS has worked hard for South Dakota's interests, and since everyone loves their own Congressperson, the GOP's only hope is to associate her with someone else's Congressperson, easily vilifiable from afar—Nancy Pelosi. That GOP line is a clever psychological trick, but SHS has been doing her darnedest to knock the policy legs out from under it.
Unfortunately, as SHS chooses to play to the right and center, she loses the left... and yes, in South Dakota, there is a left. She damages the chances Democrats have to mobilize a strong left minority who might feel motivated to go to the polls next year and push other Democratic candidates over the top. Committed Dems recognize the practical need for compromise, but seeing our lone representative in the U.S. House give away the farm on big issues like climate change and health care negates the idea that we accumulate political capital through small compromises so we can spend it when we really need it. Committed Dems can still get fired up about local issues, but it would be nice to have some fire at the top of the ticket as well.
As usual, SHS frames her opposition in terms of "what's best for South Dakota." If we can't have climate change legislation or a public option, then what's left? What are we South Dakotans getting out of SHS's continued service? More earmarks? Heck, we can count on Republicans to bring home the bacon just as well.
We Dems have no ideological reason to vote for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. We have little if any pragmatic reason to vote for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. When SHS comes around to make speeches and support local candidates next year, the general feeling among Dems in the audience may be more, "Oh well, I guess we'd better applaud." A sense of obligation to a nominal Democrat is not an ingredient for across-the-board electoral success. How do we get new voters excited about our party if we can't point with pride to the gal at the top of the ticket as a paragon of our party's values?
Being a Democrat in South Dakota is not easy. Donating scarce money to more often than not a losing cause takes some persuading. Building a viable Democratic-Independent majority in the electorate and the state legisalture is a steep climb.
Rep. Herseth Sandlin doesn't want to take that hard path. SHS prefers the path of least resistance, playing to the crowd and defusing conservative anti-Pelosi rhetoric.
...to which more Democrats are saying, "Fine. There's the door." Curtis Price sees more authenticity in voting for Chris Nelson, an honest Republican than a false one using our party to get elected. Travis Dahle of Badlands Blue is on the list of supporters on Chris Nelson's Facebook page. An Obama volunteer in Pierre says the same. Other Dems are ready to bail as well. An experienced Democratic friend notes that SHS may be making the same mistake her grandfather did, cozying up to Republicans and inspiring Democrats to sit on their hands and let him lose his re-election bid.
Me? I'm not ready to sign on with Chris Nelson yet... and I certainly won't sit on my hands. I've got my underdogs to root for, the often unRepublican and increasingly loquacious Thad Wasson and independent e-democracy champion B. Thomas Marking. I'll get more personal satisfaction backing a non-mainstream longshot.
And with a Congresswoman refusing to lead a Democratic revolution, or even a slow and steady march toward change, personal satisfaction is pretty much all I stand to get, isn't it?
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